Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Friday, July 15, 2005

Controversial EU vitamins ban to go ahead

July 12, 2005

Controversial EU vitamins ban to go ahead
By Sam Knight, Times Online

A controversial new EU regulation that has threatened to outlaw
thousands of mineral supplements and bankrupt health food stores
across Britain was upheld this morning.

The European Court of Justice approved the Food Supplements Directive
even though the court's own Advocate-General advised that the
Directive was invalid under EU law.

The ruling - greeted with surprise - is a defeat for a concerted
campaign by more than a million British health food customers and
shops. They have argued that the law, which will come into effect on
August 1, will impose an unprecedented level of regulation on mineral
supplements and could threaten the existence of small suppliers.

The Alliance For Natural Health (ANH), a group backed by the British
Health Food Manufacturers' Association, have contended that it is
unfair for health food manufacturers to bear the cost of applying for
approval for products they have been selling for many years.

But the judges of the European Court of Justice said today that the
new law was necessary to simplify the trade in natural remedies, and
to give clear health advice to consumers by instituting an approved
list of supplements, known as a "positive list".

The court observed that "before the directive was adopted, food
supplements were regulated by differing national rules liable to
impede the free movement of those goods and the functioning of the
internal market."

But in an apparent concession to the British health food industry,
which sells around £300 million of natural remedies every year, the
judges did promise to simplify the application process for
ingredients. They ruled that the burden of proof should shift from
those seeking approval to those seeking to ban a product.

The judges concluded: "An application to have a substance included on
a list may be refused only on the basis of a full risk assessment,
established on the basis of the most reliable scientific data
available and the most recent results of international research. A
refusal must also be open to challenge before the courts."

The initial reaction of the British health food industry was mixed, as
campaigners said they were still digesting the ruling and analysing
the revisions made to the application process.

"We had expected a better verdict," said a spokesman for the Alliance
For Natural Health this morning. "On the surface it looks like bad
news, because they are upholding the Food Supplements Directive and
that is disappointing... However, there may be a positive side to

Sue Croft, the director of Consumers for Health Choice, said that
their campaign for special allowances for the British health food
industry would go on.

"I think that we still have to stick out for a national delegation,"
she told Times Online. "We have to re-open negotiations with the EU
trade commission to keep hold of our supplements and keep the British
market intact. I think we have the political will to do that and that
would be brilliant."

The Directive was first approved by EU governments in 2002, and health
food manufacturers were given until today - July 12, 2005 - to submit
detailed scientific dossiers proving their ingredients were safe.
Those supplements that failed to qualify would be banned.

Over the last three years, health food suppliers have either
reformulated their goods, replacing natural substances with synthetic
chemicals that already have EU approval, or waited as their legal
challenge made its way through the courts.

As part of their campaign, a petition of more than one million
signatures and a letter of protest has been sent to Tony Blair signed
by more than 300 doctors and scientists.

Today's deadline means that health food retailers and manufacturers
have sent in hundreds of dossiers for their ingredients over the last
week, leaving the current list of which products are banned and which
are approved in flux.

"There is no current accurate list," said Ms Croft.