Food Law News - UK - 2002

FSA News Item (R462-39), 29 August 2002

VITAMINS/MINERALS - Consultation report on vitamins and minerals published

The Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals (EVM) today issued a consultation document on safe upper levels of vitamins and minerals. The EVM has spent 4 years assessing the available evidence on vitamins and minerals, in response to public concern and confusion over possible dangers of taking high amounts of vitamins and minerals over long periods of time.

The EVM is an independent group made up of 10 members from the medical and scientific community, one lay member, and four observers representing consumer organisations, the health and food industries, and alternative medicine interests. Comments on the draft EVM report are being sought throughout the consultation period, which ends on 21 November 2002.

The Group carried out a detailed nutritional and toxicological review of 34 vitamins and minerals, with particular reference to safety in long-term use. Safe upper levels were suggested for nine of them, guidance suggested for 22, and statements were issued for three minerals. Guidance was given where there was not enough evidence to suggest a safe upper level for a particular vitamin and mineral. Both guidance and safe upper levels refer to a total level taken in from food, supplements, or a combination of the two.

Professor Michael Langman, Chairman of the Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals, said:
'The Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals has responded to public concern over safe upper levels of vitamins and minerals. A broad range of data was considered in depth by the group, which includes representatives from consumer groups and industry. We are now seeking consultation responses on draft recommendations.'

The Food Standards Agency today reiterated its advice on vitamins and minerals. A healthy balanced diet, which includes plenty of fruit, vegetables and starchy foods, and moderate amounts of dairy products, meat, fish and other protein will provide all the nutrients that most people need without having to take supplements. Further information about vitamins and minerals, including good dietary sources, can be found on the FSA website.

Supplements are recommended for certain groups of people:
Women of child bearing age and pregnant women (until the 12th week of pregnancy) should take a daily dietary supplement of 0.4 milligrams folic acid and eat plenty of folate-rich foods in order to reduce the risk of neural tube defects in their babies.
Some women with high menstrual blood losses may need to take iron supplements, as advised by their doctor.
Pregnant women and some elderly people may need to take supplements containing 10 micrograms vitamin D, as advised by their doctor.
From the age of six months to two years (or five if they are not eating a wide enough range of foods), most young children will benefit from vitamin drops (A,C, and D). These are available free of charge from health clinics for children under 5 years of age in families receiving Income Support or an income-based Job Seekers' Allowance.

FSA existing advice on safety of vitamins and minerals includes:
Pregnant women should not take supplements of vitamin A, except on the advice of their doctor, as there is an association between very high levels of retinol consumption during pregnancy and the incidence of some birth defects. As an additional precaution, pregnant women should not eat liver or liver products as these are a very rich source of retinol (as a source of vitamin A).
People should limit their intake of vitamin B6 from dietary supplements to no more than 10 milligrams per day unless acting on medical advice. Very high intakes are potentially harmful as they can affect sensory nerve function.

The Food Standards Agency's advice will be informed by the final report, due to be presented to the Agency in early 2003.
Views are welcome on the consultation document, which is available in full on the FSA website

To go to main Foodlaw-Reading Index page, click here.