Food Law News - EU - 2001

FSA Letter, 28 September 2001

PARNUTS - Proposed Directive on Food Supplements

The letter is to provide an update following a letter of 7 September [not on this site]. On September 27 the Council of Ministers reached political agreement on a text text, the measure now goes for second reading in the European Parliament.

The UK supported the proposed compromise because the FSA considered it to be the best achievable deal, securing primacy for safety considerations and a number of hard-won concessions. The Government remains firmly committed to the view that, in the interests of consumer choice, the law should allow products which are safe and properly labelled to be freely marketed. Negotiations have been hard fought because the majority of EU countries do not share this view, preferring a more restrictive regime based on supposed nutritional need. There is no doubt that if the UK had not supported the compromise it would have blocked agreement and risked encouraging revisions in the direction of a wholly 'needs' based approach, against UK consumer and industry interests.

Some UK consultees have expressed concern about the implications of the proposed compromise for products currently on the UK market; it would not immediately outlaw any such products. Continued use in the UK market of vitamin and mineral sources not listed in the Annexes but in current use is permitted for seven years pending safety assessments and inclusion in the lists. And setting of maximum levels for individual vitamins and minerals falls to the Commission acting on the advice of the EU Scientific Committee on Foodstuffs (SCF) and subject to the views of Member States in the Standing Committee on Foodstuffs. The compromise allows, but does not require, these limits to be purely safety based.

The FSA expects negotiations on individual limits to further expose the differences between the safety and 'need' camps. The Agency is now directing its energies towards arguing the case for these limits to be based on thorough scientific risk assessments. It is keeping in close contact with the Commission as it draws up its plans and forging strong links between the SCF and the Expert Group we have set up to advise on acceptable levels. People who support this stance may wish to consider what they might do to encourage like-minded consumer and industry interests in other Member States to lobby their governments to support the setting of individual limits on this basis

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