Health Supreme by Sepp Hasslberger

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October 31, 2007

EU Commissioner Kyprianou shrugs off Consumer Concerns over Nutrients

The European Union is currently deliberating how to limit dosages of vitamins and minerals in commerce. The move is mandated by the European food supplements directive, which came into force in 2004. The directive regulates the commerce of nutrient-dense food supplements but full implementation is still years away, expected to take hold by 2010. Temporary permission for hundreds of specific forms of vitamins and minerals used in supplements for decades, for which 'dossiers' were required to be submitted, will run out in December 2009. The deliberations on dosage limits are expected to come to a conclusion that same year.

Apparently Kyprianou's office has received a huge number of letters from concerned consumers writing from all over Europe, who do not like the prospect of having to switch from vitamin C to lemon juice, and the Commission feels that some kind of a response is needed. In a letter to the Irish Association of Health Stores, sent on behalf of Kyprianou, Paula Pinho states that Kyprianou "has already received a serious number of similar letters [about the food supplements directive]. Therefore, it says, "the Cabinet of Commissioner Kyprianou, in cooperation with DG SANCO, has decided to provide a detailed answer to all these letters through Internet."


Carrots on prescription - Artwork by Emma Holister.

The Commissioner's 'detailed reply' however does not address specific consumer concerns. It reads like a plea for people to stop bothering the Commission while it does its important work. Well worn phrases like supplements are "intended for supplementing the normal diet" and they should be "safe and provide a wide choice to consumers" are little consolation to those of us who use nutrients at higher than normal doses to keep illness away and support an active and healthy life style.

The Commission's 'discussion paper' on dosages and the responses to this call for input from member states and stakeholders - industry, trade and consumers - but not the letters from individual consumers, are linked from that same page.

This episode recalls an earlier reply to consumers, given by the previous EU Commissioner, David Byrne, during the passage of the food supplements directive, which similarly assured us that nothing untoward was going to happen - that the new regulations were going to be all for the best, that consumers would have a wide choice and be safe in the knowledge of being 'protected' by the authorities.

If the objective of the European Commission really was to provide "a wide choice" of (safe) supplements, why can't they leave good enough alone and turn their legislative fervor to other, more worthwhile targets? Supplement safety is not problematic, as evidenced by actual statistics. If anyone took their legislative work seriously, they would act according to the maxim: "If it isn't broken, don't fix it".

On the other hand, registered medicines are tightly controlled and patented and have given rise to a multi-mega profitable industry, yet they kill - in the United States alone - over 100.000 people every year. There is no question that they are unsafe. Now here would be a fruitful field of endeavor for our busy European legislators.

Why fuss over the dosages of nutrients that haven't killed anyone in decades, when the very industry that is supposed to prevent and treat illness is so far off the track? All the Commissioner has to say is that food supplements "are intended for supplementing the normal diet rather than having therapeutic effects". So it's ok for medicines to kill, but supplements better not have any curative effects - that would impinge negatively on the monopoly of medicines.

Could it be that the medical/pharmaceutical industry has regulators and legislators firmly in its pocket? Is the very industry that has become a leading cause of injury and death directing legislators' attention towards the supposed dangers of those nasty nutrients, to hide the very real skeletons in its own closets?

- - -


Answer to the letters addressed to Commissioner Kyprianou concerning the establishment of maximum amounts in food supplements

(Original here)

In the context of the exercise for the establishment of maximum and minimum amounts of vitamins and minerals in foodstuffs and in particular in food supplements, several letters have been addressed to Commissioner Kyprianou. With this answer we provide a collective reply to all letters.

First of all, the Directorate General Health and Consumer Protection would like to emphasize that the main aim of the food supplements Directive is to ensure that food supplements placed on the market are safe and provide a wide choice to consumers to supplement their diet.

Moreover, it is important to note that food supplements are regulated as food and are intended for supplementing the normal diet rather than having therapeutic effects. In fact, claims as to treatment, cure or prevention of disease would not be allowed for food supplements and would place the product under the legal framework of medicines.

We can confirm that we have initiated the works for the establishment of the maximum amounts of vitamins and minerals in food supplements, as foreseen by Article 5 of the abovementioned Directive, where the criteria to be considered in this exercise are also listed.

We have recently published a discussion paper on the establishment of maximum and minimum amounts of vitamins and minerals in foods where we have identified the issues to be considered and invited all interested parties to provide their view by 30 September 20061. We are currently analysing the answers received2.

Furthermore, we can reassure that in this exercise of setting the maximum levels for vitamins and minerals in food supplements at Community level, we will consider with the utmost care all existing national rules and will endeavour to incorporate in the measures as much flexibility as is compatible with the principles of the internal market.

1 Discussion paper
2 Stakeholder responses received by the Commission

- - -

In the interests of balance, here is some information on how four pieces of recent European legislation impact natural and nutritional means of staying healthy, compiled by the Alliance for Natural Health.

EU LEGISLATION AND NATURAL HEALTH - The good, the bad and the ugly (PDF)


posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Wednesday October 31 2007
updated on Thursday November 18 2010

URL of this article:


Related Articles

Proposed European 'Nutrient Safety Levels' Not Fit For Purpose
The Alliance for Natural Health, a group campaigning for sustainable health care in Europe, states in a newly released paper, that the European Commission's proposed model for limiting the amounts of nutrients allowed to be sold in food supplements is seriously flawed. Dr Robert Verkerk, the scientific director of the Alliance says: “The Commission claims that its methods are scientific but we have found that they do not stand... [read more]
October 24, 2007 - Sepp Hasslberger

European Food Regulation and 'Intended Normal Use'
What is a food and what is a medicine, is a question that has no easy answer. The grey line of demarcation between the two might seem unimportant to some, but if distinctions are arbitrarily set, they can destroy markets and prevent people from effectively taking care of their own health by adjusting the intake of certain nutrients in their diet. With diet and nutrition closely linked to the prevention... [read more]
May 04, 2007 - Sepp Hasslberger

European Supplement Rules Distort Economy, Endanger Health
In a recent article published in Environmental Liability, Dr Jaap Hanekamp director of research of the Dutch HAN Foundation has critically analyzed the European food supplements directive, charging that the excessive reliance on precaution to avoid "nutrient toxicity" may lead to a distorted internal market and a worsening of public health. This would be the exact opposite of the intended "high level of consumer protection" and the "level playing field"... [read more]
May 10, 2006 - Sepp Hasslberger

European Health Legislation, Codex And The Sustainability Of Health Care
Brussels has been busy "adjusting" EU food and medicine laws for several years now, bringing increasingly onerous controls for natural products - notably herbs and food supplements. Some observers have criticized these moves as designed to give an unfair advantage to "conventional", pharma-based medicine and will cut across preventive health strategies. Prevention is high on the agenda, but official strategies are largely limited to avoiding and killing off germs. Nutritional... [read more]
April 20, 2005 - Sepp Hasslberger

Where Are The Bodies? - The Exceptional Safety of Nutritional Supplements
Canadian Health Authorities are ready to regulate supplements in a similar way as pharmaceutical drugs, but resistance is rallying around a law proposal - Bill C 420 - which would clearly define and distinguish supplements from dangerous drugs, suggesting that supplements are more close to foods than medicines and should therefore be regulated in a similar way as food products. Medicines regulation could crush the supplements industry and make many... [read more]
May 17, 2005 - Sepp Hasslberger

The Dark Side of Precaution: Preventing Prevention
The precautionary principle mandates intervention to save the environment and - most importantly - our health from degradation in the case of a pressing danger, even if all the scientific data are not yet on hand. It is invoked when we face threats from chemicals, radiation or other causes. The principle seems important, yet it is difficult to find an authoritative definition. The European Union has issued a communication in... [read more]
July 09, 2006 - Sepp Hasslberger




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