Health Supreme by Sepp Hasslberger

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July 01, 2003

UK House of Lords votes against EU supplements directive

LONDON 1 July 2003 - The House of Lords, in a vote of 132 to 79, approverd a motion last night asking the Government not to transform the European Food Supplements Directive into UK law. While the motion, put forward by Earl Howe, is not binding, it sends a strong message to the Government to return to the negotiating table with the European Commission and Council to work out a solution that will allow UK consumers continued access to health supplements.

It is feared that the EU directive, passed in July 2002, will remove thousands of currently available nutritional products from the shelves of health food stores. Consumer groups, retailers and industry are concerned that the public's health choices will be sharply limited by the EU's attempt to regulate internal commerce of these products, as reported recently by The Times and BBC News.

"Of course this is not only a UK matter", comments Ivan Ingrilli, spokesman for La Leva di Archimede, a Rome based association campaigning for free choice in health. "Consumers in all European countries are facing the threat of losing access to important health supplements, both here in Italy and elsewhere, when governments start issuing national laws to implement the EU directive." The EU's rules require the directive to be transposed into national law by the end of July.

Paul Taylor from the UK reports on the vote and its implications.

London, 1 July 2003

We won the vote in the House of Lords last night. The motion was carried by 132 votes to 79.

Because the House of Lords motion (put forward by Earl Howe) was not an annulling motion, it will not prevent the Government from implementing the Statutory Instrument that will translate the Food Supplement Directive into UK law. What it will do however is send a strong signal to the Government. The Government are however at liberty to ignore the result of the Lords vote - which they probably will, at least for now.

The 16 members of the Standing Committee hold the real power on this issue, and will decide on Thursday 3rd July whether or not the UK implements the Statutory Instrument that will translate the Food Supplement Directive into UK law. If the Standing Committee vote to implement the legislation, which they probably will, we must file papers to implement the legal challenge by
mid August.

The Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) are preparing the legal challenge to the
Food Supplements Directive, and are engaged in raising the necessary funds to do this. Please consider making a donation at their website.

Consumers for Health Choice (CHC), a UK based consumer advocacy group calls the vote a humiliating defeat for the UK Government. The group says it has campaigned hard to induce the Government "to seek a better deal for the UK under the terms of the Food Supplements Directive".

The story has also been carried on ITV as follows:

Lords reject vitamin law changes 23.36PM BST, 30 Jun 2003

The Government was defeated when the Lords voted against proposed European Union curbs on sale of vitamins and mineral food supplements in the UK.

But the vote will not stop the Food Supplements Directive coming into force in August 2005.

Tory health spokesman Earl Howe's motion merely "called upon" ministers to revoke the implementing regulations.

The motion, carried by 132 to 79, a majority of 53, "regretted" the limited nature of the lists of permitted nutrients contained in the EU's Food Supplements Directive.

It called on ministers to revoke the Food Supplements (England) Regulations and to re-negotiate the Directive with the European Commission, to allow "safe and appropriately labelled" supplements to be marketed.

The motion urged simpler procedures for adding substances with a long history of safe use to the EU's permitted list and that maximum permitted levels of vitamins and minerals should be "based on sound science".

Junior health minister Lord Warner said: "The UK is obliged to implement the Directive.

"Failure to transpose its requirements properly would be a serious breach of our obligations under the EC Treaty and would result in infraction proceedings against the UK and in the likelihood of our facing heavy fines.

"Ultimately, implementation would be forced upon us."

Lord Warner cautioned: "Simply engaging in Brussels bashing on this Directive is not going to help British consumers and industry. The Directive has been agreed and we are obliged to implement it."

Earl Howe later told reporters:"This vote sends a powerful message to the Government that the Food Supplements Directive is unacceptable.

"The onus is now on ministers to protect British consumers by negotiating an amending Directive in Brussels to ensure that nutrients safely marketed in this country for many years remain legal."

The Tory move was backed by Liberal Democrat and crossbenchers.

Earl Howe said ministers "have let this country and its consumers down very badly." They had brushed aside any suggestion that the UK market for vitamins and mineral supplements would be severely affected.

"It is now abundantly clear that their assurances were hollow and that the manufacturers' fears were right all along."

Over 40 per cent of the public used such supplements and some 32 per cent took vitamins or other dietary supplements every day. They should be regulated purely on safety grounds, not for the sake of harmonising EU rules.

More than 300 nutrients or nutrient sources currently on the British market were not on the EU's permitted list. The directive would affect "thousands" of products currently on sale in the UK.

"These products will become illegal under this directive."

There were also proposals for maximum permitted dosages of the substances that were to be allowed. "That's the nanny state approach writ large," Earl Howe protested.

He added: "The Government have not done nearly enough to uphold our national interests. They have allowed the EU bandwagon to roll over us."


posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Tuesday July 1 2003
updated on Thursday October 14 2010

URL of this article:


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August 08, 2003 - Robin Good

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October 16, 2003 - Sepp Hasslberger

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April 21, 2004 - Sepp Hasslberger

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Readers' Comments

Dear Lord Howe,
To restrict vitamins in the UK to RDA's only would be wrong and deprives us of health choices. Thank you Lord Howe for standing up for the ordinary UK person who wishes to buy vitamins in the Health Food Shops- not go to the doctor first for a prescription. We need to retain or freedom to make our own health choices in the UK.
What can be done by our politicians to safeguard this health freedom in the UK, despite the EU directive?
Yours sincerely
V. Munro Stevens

Posted by: V. Munro Stevens on July 9, 2003 10:02 PM


I am horrified by the recent turn of events. It seems to me that those of us who take responsibility for our own health and wellbeing are being penalised. Are the pharmacuetical companies concerned that too many are gaining too many benefits from natural medicines and supplements. Is it eating into their finances? I wonder the real reasons behind this directive. Having recently been very ill after a whiplash injury I used only herbal remedies and minerals to help me through the stress and insomnia I suffered as a result to great effect. I also use Vit B complex, high dose and time release. THis is obviously on the list of the banned! What right does the govenment have to ban these health giving supplements when they dither on whether or not to ban public sale of fireworks, known to be extremely dangerous!!!!

Posted by: E Rawson on November 12, 2003 06:25 PM


Hello Eileen,

thank you for your comment on the European Directive having been skeptically received by the House of Lords. As you may know, the House of Commons has meanwhile accepted the law (statutory instrument) that will put the directive on supplements into effect in the UK.

July 04, 2003

UK votes to adopt EU supplements directive

and you might also know that the UK law has been challenged by two different groups in the courts in the UK:

October 20, 2003

Mathioudakis: Don't Rob My Sleep

Your hunch about the real reasons seems not far fetched. Pharmaceutically controlled mediine has been fighting competition for decades, with means that can't be called fair by any stretch of the imagination. My most recent article

November 12, 2003

Foul Play - How Corporate Medicine Strikes Back

gives an idea of how and why this is done. Basically they have a business plan that does not include the effective natural remedies. They are not the profit makers.

Posted by: Josef on November 13, 2003 11:07 AM


Here in france we are going to approach our parlement representatives and find out what they are going about this European law to come.

Posted by: Françoise MAURER on March 23, 2004 06:27 PM


I'm horrified by the idea that the government are proposing to ban vitamins and supplements from the uk. There has been reseach done on many of the products and although they may have adverse effects if abused so does anything else. The pill taken by most women has many adverse possible effects but it's still on the market. Why? because it is benefitial to the government and the individuals. Then take smoking... Well it's a fact it will lessen ones life span.. Then why not bad this product from being imported? Is it just that the Government are affraid that the supplements ect. are really going to prolong life and the world end up over populated.... Makes one wonder. I believe there is too much hypocrisy in this country, and we need to stand up for our rights.

Posted by: B.kay on March 24, 2005 11:55 AM


I am visiting the UK (Wales) July 1-30, 2005. I take many vitamins. Does this mean that I may not bring my vitamins with me? Is it illegal for me to carry and use vitamins in UK? Is there some list? How would I bring them? I usually put morning, lunch, and dinner vitamins into small plastic bags. Is that going to be a problem coming into UK at Cardiff? Thank you for any help. Do you answer here?

Posted by: BGaither on May 27, 2005 03:01 AM


For now, there is nothing illegal about bringing your vitamins into the UK.

The European Directive on supplements has not been fully implemented yet, and I hope that it will never be, at least some good people are working on this.

Posted by: Sepp on June 6, 2005 10:13 PM


Minister pledges support for consumers and industry over Directives
November 23, 2005
The recently appointed health minister, Caroline Flint, has pledged continued government support to consumers and industry over EU regulations that threaten access to safe and effective natural health products.

Speaking at the Consumers for Health Choice (CHC) Annual Parliamentary Reception Flint said that since taking office she had personally been involved with a series of discussions and briefings with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) on the Food Supplements Directive (FSD). She was confident that these, and other on-going discussions, would enable Britain to negotiate the best deal in Europe for British consumers and industry. She added that she had recently given ministerial approval to the FSA Board's proposal that Britain should seek a 'national exception' in Europe which, if successfully agreed with the EC, would enable higher dose VMS products to stay on the shelves.

Flint, a pro-European, said that the biggest challenges facing the natural products industry in Europe were cultural not institutional. "Sometimes it is simply a case that there is someone in Germany who doesn't understand the different trading and consumer traditions in, say, Britain or the Netherlands. We need to find ways of dealing with these cultural differences sensibly and effectively.�?

Speaking on the subject of the Herbals Directive, Flint commented: "This is an area where I know there are differing views. Some people believe that the regulations are welcome and overdue. But at the same time I accept that government should be giving maximum support to industry to help manufacturers get their products registered.�?

In his speech CHC chair, Michael Peet, said he welcomed the interest the new minister had given to consumer and industry concerns over the FSD and other EU legislation.
He commented: "I believe that we are witnessing a paradigm shift in government thinking on these issues and am hopeful that this could, finally, set us on a route to finding a safe home in Europe for our products.�? But he added that CHC's own message to government had become increasingly hard-hitting politically, largely because of the inaction of previous ministers.

CHC director, Sue Croft, said she had been delighted with the way the reception had gone. "It was very well attended, with good representations from both Houses of Parliament. In terms of getting across our message to individual MPs and Peers I think this was probably our best ever House of Commons reception.�?

However Croft agreed with long-time CHC supporter, Austin Mitchell MP, who said that the "fight against overzealous EU regulations�? had to continue if the battle was to be won. Switching his attention to recent media scares about supplements, Mitchell said: "The streets would be littered with the dead if vitamins were half as dangerous as some people would have you believe.�?

Posted by: Sepp on November 25, 2005 10:57 PM


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The Individual Is Supreme And Finds Its Way Through Intuition


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