Food Law News - UK - 2003

FSA News Release (2003/0371), 8 May 2003

SUPPLEMENTS - New FSA advice on safety of high doses of vitamins and minerals

The Food Standards Agency today issued new advice on some vitamins and minerals that could have possible harmful effects if taken in too high a dose.

The FSA is advising consumers on what levels of supplements are unlikely to cause any harmful effects. The advice follows the publication of the report of the Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals (EVM), which makes recommendations on 31 vitamins and minerals.

The EVM has assessed the available evidence on safety, in response to concern over possible risks of taking high doses of vitamins and minerals. Current intakes of most vitamins and minerals are not thought to be harmful. However, the Food Standards Agency has said one substance may have the potential to cause cancer and has consulted on a proposal to ban its use; six substances may have irreversible effects if taken in large amounts over long periods of time; and three substances may have short-term harmful effects, which would disappear if people stopped taking the supplement.

In more detail:

Advice is also being given on biotin, folic acid, pantothenic acid, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, vitamin B12, vitamin D, vitamin E, vitamin K, boron, cobalt, copper, iodine, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, tin, magnesium, potassium, and silicon.

Sir John Krebs, Chair of the Food Standards Agency, said:

'While in most cases you can get all the nutrients you need from a balanced diet, many people choose to take supplements. But taking some high dose supplements over a long period of time could be harmful. We are using an extremely thorough independent expert review of the scientific evidence on the safety of vitamins and minerals as the basis for new advice to help consumers make informed choices. In addition, the Board of the Food Standards Agency will be considering what further action we would wish the supplements industry to take.'

The FSA Board will today receive a report recommending voluntary action by the supplements industry to reduce the dose and/or provide label warnings for some high dose food supplements.

Agency advice on vitamins and minerals is available on the FSA website.

The following notes are included:

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