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Vitamin market future in dispute

Jul 12 2005

The future of Britain's thriving market in vitamins and other food supplements was in hot dispute after European judges approved tough new laws that health food campaigners wanted scrapped.

Large sections of the British health food industry insist hundreds of established food supplements in thousands of products will now be swept from the shelves by the EU rules which come into force in August.

But the Government's Food Safety Agency, now vetting hundreds of familiar products under rules requiring them to qualify anew for inclusion on an EU approved list of nutrients, says consumers will see virtually no change from the start of next month.

In reality the new EU procedures for verifying the safety and acceptability of vitamin supplements and minerals will take years to complete - up to 2009 in some cases. And officials expect that the vast bulk of supplements in daily use will qualify routinely to be kept in the shops.

Campaigners against the rules had argued that they were unnecessary and costly for the health food manufacturers to comply with. One European judge, an Advocate-General delivering an "opinion" in April, even agreed that the so-called Food Supplements Directive, although a good idea in theory, was not clear enough and should be withdrawn.

That gave hope to the campaigners who launched the legal challenge - until the final verdict decreed that the Directive was fully justified to protect public health.

Acknowledging the doubters, the judges warned the European Commission to ensure that the procedures for vetting food supplements are clear and open, and give health food manufacturers every opportunity to make the "positive list" with their products - and with legal redress available if they fail.

That barely appeased opponents, with Conservative Euro-MP John Bowis lashing out at rules he said defied common sense and simply added more red tape for the industry to tackle.

He claimed health food tablets containing nutrients such as selenium yeast, boron and chromium picolinate will have to go, even though they have been approved under domestic food safety laws.

Hundreds of thousands of Britons, he said, had been taking such vitamins and minerals on health grounds for their entire adult lives with no ill-effects. The Directive was "several steps too far in the realm of the nanny state". 
The future of Britain's thriving market in vitamins and other food supplements was in hot dispute after European judges approved tough new laws that health food campaigners wanted scrapped.

Large sections of the British health food industry insist hundreds of established food supplements in thousands of products will now be swept from the shelves by the EU rules which come into force in August.

But the Government's Food Safety Agency, now vetting hundreds of familiar products under rules requiring them to qualify anew for inclusion on an EU approved list of nutrients, says consumers will see virtually no change from the start of next month.

In reality the new EU procedures for verifying the safety and acceptability of vitamin supplements and minerals will take years to complete - up to 2009 in some cases. And officials expect that the vast bulk of supplements in daily use will qualify routinely to be kept in the shops.

Campaigners against the rules had argued that they were unnecessary and costly for the health food manufacturers to comply with. One European judge, an Advocate-General delivering an "opinion" in April, even agreed that the so-called Food Supplements Directive, although a good idea in theory, was not clear enough and should be withdrawn.

That gave hope to the campaigners who launched the legal challenge - until the final verdict decreed that the Directive was fully justified to protect public health.

Acknowledging the doubters, the judges warned the European Commission to ensure that the procedures for vetting food supplements are clear and open, and give health food manufacturers every opportunity to make the "positive list" with their products - and with legal redress available if they fail.

That barely appeased opponents, with Conservative Euro-MP John Bowis lashing out at rules he said defied common sense and simply added more red tape for the industry to tackle.

He claimed health food tablets containing nutrients such as selenium yeast, boron and chromium picolinate will have to go, even though they have been approved under domestic food safety laws.

Hundreds of thousands of Britons, he said, had been taking such vitamins and minerals on health grounds for their entire adult lives with no ill-effects. The Directive was "several steps too far in the realm of the nanny state".


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