Health Supreme by Sepp Hasslberger

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July 22, 2003

How UK Labour fixed vote on supplements

On 3 July, the United Kingdom approved, by Committee vote in the House of Commons, the transformation of a highly controversial European directive into English law. The measure risks removing a large number of popular and effective products from health food store shelves, despite protestations to the contrary by the EU Commission.

Flashback: Consumer and Health Commissioner David Byrne said on 13 March 2002:
"I am very pleased with the outcome of today's vote", David Byrne, the Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, said. "The aim of this legislation is to put consumer safety and informed consumer choice first, and to solve the problems manufacturers currently face in marketing their products due to diverging national rules. Thus consumers across Europe will have a wide range of safe products available from which to choose, which is not the case in quite a few member states today. The aim of the Directive is not to ban food supplements as some lobbies have misled consumers to believe."

The approval of the "statutory instrument", the law that implements the directive, came after only days earlier, a heated debate in the House of Lords had led to a resolution rejecting the measure and asking the government to re-negotiate with Brussels. The Labour government however had already decided that - despite popular opposition - approving the European directive was the thing to do.

Martina Watts, a qualified Nutritionist at the Crescent Clinic of Complementary Medicine in Brighton, reports in the Sussex Argus that Tony Blair's Labour party has helped the Health Committee come to the "right" conclusion by a last minute re-shuffle of the Committee's membership, replacing no less than five members - roughly one third of them - on the evening before the vote.

Is it right that governments may ride roughshod over the wishes of the people who elected them? Is is right that pharmaceutical financial interests should take precedence over people's health choices? I doubt it very much.

Right to buy essential supplements

by Martina Watts

Totalitarian regimes rely on people who are conditioned to be compliant and will do what they are told without regard to the consequences of their actions.

Ethical considerations are abandoned precisely because they are protected from their deeds or rewarded in some fashion.

I am reminded of such regimes when reading the inside story of how our own Government is trying to ban vitamins and minerals in the UK.

It is a dramatic story other newspapers have yet to publish.

After making a full recovery from an ME-related illness through the use of nutritional supplements, Paul Taylor has been campaigning to stop the EU ban on vitamins and minerals.

On July 3, he witnessed in Committee Room 12 (House of Commons) at the hands of our own labour MPs, our descent into a true, postethical society.

Here is his first-hand account: "Despite efforts by some MPs, the House of Lords, lobbying groups and a petition with a million signatures, the EU Food Supplements Directive was passed into UK law - not by the House of Commons but by a small, rigged committee.

"The effect of this decision will be to clear the shelves of essential supplements within the next 24 months. Shortly before the vote was due to take place, it emerged that several Labour MPs, including Kate Hoey MP, were going to vote against the legislation.

"On the day before the vote, the Labour Party suddenly removed five Labour MPs from the committee and replaced them with five loyal party apparatchiks who could be guaranteed to vote it through.

"Criticising the Government's jackboot approach to parliamentary democracy, Chris Grayling MP (Con) challenged the Junior Health Minister, Melanie Johnson MP (Lab), to name just one item from the 300 banned nutrients that is unsafe.

"Miss Johnson refused to answer his question. Chris Grayling then asked her: 'Why are we allowing laws imposed by the European Commission to take from people in this country the choice that they have freely exercised for years?'

"A clearly angry Kate Hoey MP, having been removed from the committee against her will, stated that: 'The message will go out to millions of ordinary people that the Government cares more about the pharmaceutical industry than it does about ordinary people's opportunities and rights to continue to take products they have always taken.'

"Jeremy Corbyn MP (Lab) confirmed that the directive is the product of ruthless lobbying tactics used by the pharmaceutical industry which is 'not keen on the diversity of supply of vitamin supplements available in health-food shops'.

"It appears our final chance now of being allowed to take supplements of our choice is to support a legal challenge to the Directive.

"You can make a donation to the campaign fund at". As regards our own parliamentary representatives, if you know any who have at least a nodding acquaintance with their own conscience, pose this question to them: About 200,000 deaths per year are tobacco and alcohol related - neither of which will be banned. Thousands die from the side-effects of prescribed drugs.

"How many deaths are attributable to vitamin C?"

Martina is a qualified nutritionist at the Crescent Clinic of Complementary Medicine, 37 Vernon Terrace, Brighton. Tel: 01273 202221 or email:

Here a report about the discission in Committee, that led to the vote

Food Supplements (England) Regulations 2003 Statutory Instrument 1387

An excerpt from a report concerning the Standing Committee debate and vote to translate the EU Food Supplements Directive into English law, with associated background material. The full report is available here.

Prepared by Paul Anthony Taylor

The EU Food Supplements Directive was passed into UK law recently, but the circumstances surrounding the Government’s approval of it are somewhat controversial. Rather than put the legislation to a democratic vote in the House of Commons, the Government decided instead that a vote held following a one and a half hour committee meeting would be sufficient reason to ban 300 nutrients and 5000 products from the shelves of UK health food stores by 1st August 2005.

The original members of the committee were announced towards the end of June. Two days before the vote was due to take place it emerged that several Labour MPs on the committee, including Kate Hoey MP, were going to vote against the legislation. This would have prevented the legislation from being voted through. On the day before the vote the Labour Party removed five Labour MPs from the committee and replaced them with Labour MPs who, although they had not had an opportunity to read about the issue in great depth, could be guaranteed to vote it through. It is particularly noteworthy that all but one of the MPs who were removed from the committee had previously signed Early Day Motions calling upon the Government to take urgent action to address the serious problems brought about by the Food Supplements Directive.

The five Labour MPs who were removed were: Tony Banks, Tony Colman, Kate Hoey, Andrew Love and Joan Ryan. The five Labour MPs who replaced them were Charlotte Atkins, Ross Cranston, Geraint Davies, John Mann and Claire Ward.

The debate and vote were held on 3rd July in Committee Room 12 at the House of Commons. Right at the outset of the meeting, Chris Grayling MP (Cons) raised a point of order in relation to the removing of Labour MPs from the committee against their wishes. The Chairman (Win Griffiths MP, Lab) replied that there was nothing that he could do about the situation. David Wilshire (Cons) then expressed his concern that the Government were “yet again showing another example of their jackboot approach and determination to stamp on this place and parliamentary democracy, if any honourable Members so much as say that they have doubts about the Government's dictatorial attitude”.

Chris Grayling then issued a direct challenge to the Junior Health Minister, Miss Melanie Johnson MP (Lab), asking her could she name one item on the list of almost 300 nutrients that will be banned that is unsafe.

Miss Johnson was silent at first, and then replied that she saw no point in selecting individual points to reply to and that she would not respond to a challenge thrown down to oblige her to argue a position.

“Why” asked Chris Grayling “are we allowing laws imposed by the European Commission to take from people in this country the choice that they have freely exercised for years?”

Some of the most dramatic moments of the debate came when Kate Hoey (Lab) stood up to speak. Because she was no longer on the committee she was not allowed to vote, but she was clearly very angry and determined to say her piece. In her speech, she confirmed that she was a member of the Committee until she had said, very honestly, that she would vote against the regulations. “That is probably a lesson that one should not be honest in this place,” she said.

Kate Hoey also stated her belief that “the regulations send out the message that, once again, the elite in Brussels, backed up, I am afraid, by the connivance of the Government, are running our country. The message will go out to millions of ordinary people that the Government care more about the pharmaceutical industry than they do about ordinary people's opportunities and rights to continue to take products that they have always taken. This is not a public health issue. If it were, we would not be dealing with it in this way and we would already have banned the products. This is a victory for the elite in Brussels and for bureaucracy in Brussels. The idea that we are making a decision on the regulations in an hour and a half in a small Committee Room is scandalous. If that is the way in which the European Union is going, no wonder there is a huge demand in this country for a referendum on any change to the constitution.” She finished her speech by saying that “the situation is scandalous, and I want my voice to be very clear as I say that this is not being done in my name.”

Jeremy Corbyn (Lab) suggested that the genesis of the directive is the product of some ruthless lobbying tactics that are used in the European Union. “Brussels is a place in which one needs to walk with care” he said “because there are so many sharp suits around that will cut one. Such people are there and are lobbying on behalf of all kinds of interest groups.” He went on to say that he unfortunately saw “the hand of the pharmaceutical industry at work, because it is not keen on the diversity of supply of vitamin supplements and all such products that are available in health food shops in this country.” Mr Corbyn also stated that “the other issue must be the power of the medical industry—it is an industry—in the prescription of drugs.” He went on to say that “the pharmaceutical industry prescribes the kinds of medicines that it does, but many people in this country wish there to be a different, more homeopathic form of medicine.”

Graham Brady (Cons) pointed out that “there is a rich irony here”, saying that “the Government believe that they have the power and the right to require our constituents to use a combined MMR vaccination and they will be moving amendments to the Water Bill next week that would give them powers to add fluoride to the public water supply.” Stating that the Government believe that “they can do things to our constituents against their will” he added that “they do not believe that our constituents should have freedom of choice.”

The Junior Health Minster, Melanie Johnson MP (Lab) spoke for less than twenty minutes, and it was clear to all present that she was doing her level best to avoid answering questions on the more controversial aspects of the legislation. It is noteworthy that the only positive thing that she could find to say about the legislation was that “it will open up markets for products manufactured by UK businesses in other member states.” Proof indeed that this legislation was designed to benefit business, not consumers.

After the meeting a vote took place, and the regulations were approved, by 8 votes to 6. It is very clear that had the Government not rigged the Committee and removed dissenting Labour MPs the Regulations would have been blocked.

Letters to the editor - The Argus, Sussex

Rigged vote

I APPLAUD you for publishing Martina Watts' article about the Government's rigging of the vote to pass the Food Supplements Directive (The Argus, July 19).

As Martina's article indicated, I attended the committee meeting as a public observer and can confirm that the manner in which this legislation was railroaded through was an affront to democracy.

The Junior Health Minister, Melanie Johnson, speaking in defence of the regulations, spoke for less than 20 minutes, and it was clear she was trying to avoid answering direct questions.

The only positive thing she could find to say about the directive was it would "open up markets for products manufactured by UK businesses in other member states" - proof indeed that the Food Supplements Directive was
designed to benefit: business. not consumers.

It is ironic our "leaders" wish to add fluoride to our water supply -- in the form of hexafluorosilicic acid (an unpurified hazardous toxic waste by-product of the phosphate fertiliser industry derived from the pollution scrubber liquor from its factory chimneys) - while at the same time banning 5,000 safe nutritional supplement products, the majority of which have been on sale in the UK for decades.

Our junk food-laden and pharmaceutically tranquillised society is bombarded almost daily with media propaganda that nutritional supplements are detrimental to their health and only rarely do newspapers give space to the

Nutrition writers such as Martina Watts are in short supply and I commend The Argus for publishing her column on a weekly basis.

Paul Anthony Taylor
Langholm Crescent,
County Durham

It's my body

I WAS very interested by Martina Watts' article. It highlights an iniquity the Press refuse to publish and I am delighted to read at least one regional paper has done so.

I have got rude letters back from a national newspaper when I have asked them if they would cover it and have received similar responses from MPs and MEPs.

I have taken these highly beneficial substances for decades and know my health will be ruined if I can no longer take them to maintain my well-being.

Marlene Houghton
Elgar Avenue,

Insult to us

THE National Association of Health Stores (NAHS) is disgusted at the manner in which this Government disregarded public opinion and a request for revocation from the House of Lords to force through nihilistic  Food Supplements Regulations.

The Government showed its contempt for democracy by removing from the legislation committee Labour MPs who had indicated they might vote against it.

The majority of the Committee did not want to implement the Food Supplements Directive.                 

Were this issue merely about selling pills and potions and making a profit, we would likely have given up.  

However, this is about a fundamental right to choose how to look after your family and yourself.

Along with others, we will continue our campaign so this issue will never disappear.

We ask that you write to the minister to register your concerns about the disgraceful way this has been handled.

Ralph A Pike
association director
The National Association of Health Stores
Abbeydale Road
South Sheffield
South Yorkshire

Related links

Government advisors linked to pharma

Update from Alliance for Natural Health

Government vitamin safety data slanted

UK votes to adopt directive

House of Lords votes against directive

EU directives set to erode individual choice

Consumers demonstrate against EU directive


posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Tuesday July 22 2003
updated on Tuesday December 21 2010

URL of this article:


Related Articles

Courts to decide fate of EU supplements directive
The Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) is set to challenge the validity of the European directive on food supplements by taking the EU executive to court over senseless restrictions to consumer availability of natural supplements with a nutritional value. A top law firm has been retained by ANH to see the legal challenge through the EU courts and the word is, that it might well work. The EU has decided... [read more]
August 08, 2003 - Robin Good

European Supplements Directive challenged in London Court
The European Union's Directive on Food Supplements, which became EU law last year and is now being transposed into the legal systems of EU member states, has been challenged in a UK court on Monday 13 October by the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) a pan-European coalition of supplement manufacturers, retailers, independent health practitioners and consumers. The case, filed in the London High Court by Brick Court Chambers and the... [read more]
October 16, 2003 - Sepp Hasslberger

Food Supplements in Europe - What is the Problem?
The European Union has issued a Directive to regulate the commerce of food supplements, which is in the process of being implemented in the member states. If reading the referenced text does not tell you what problems this directive might bring to your ability to either buy or sell supplements in one of the European Community member states, don't feel alone. That is a problem most observers have and I... [read more]
April 21, 2004 - Sepp Hasslberger

Denmark To Eliminate Concept Of Supplements: 'They're All Medicines'
August 2004 - Danish Health Authorities have issued a proposed national "Guidance on Supplements" for public discussion which, according to MayDay, an association campaigning for freedom of choice in health matters, "is worse than any legislation we have ever seen before, as it will erase the concept of supplements, this actually means that Denmark is about to be the most totalitarian state experiment in Europe concerning health." The Danes refer to... [read more]
September 07, 2004 - Sepp Hasslberger

Supplements: EU Court Hears Case As UK Commons Debate Directive
Luxembourg - The European Court of Justice heard oral arguments yesterday in a case brought by the Alliance for Natural Health, the British Health Food Manufacturers Association and the National Association of Health Food Stores, to overturn the prohibitive provisions of the European food supplements directive. The directive, passed in 2002 for the purpose of harmonizing European laws on health products, is set to require expensive research to prove the... [read more]
January 26, 2005 - Sepp Hasslberger

Food Supplements: German Risk Institute Takes Dim View
The German Federal Institute for Risk Evaluation, formerly the Federal Office for Consumer Health Protection, has established a risk assessment model for deducing maximum safe levels of nutrients provided in supplements and fortified foods, according to a recent report of The report was published in two parts, one dealing with minerals, the other with vitamins, both available in PDF format - so far only in German language (Minerals here)... [read more]
January 20, 2005 - Sepp Hasslberger




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