There are, however, no significant health risks to consumers as their exposures to lead and arsenic from products at their recommended dosages are small compared with exposures to these elements from the normal diet and well below maximum safety limits.
The results from the survey are published in the November edition of the Food Safety Information Bulletin and are available on the MAFF Website at: "http://www.maff.gov.uk/food/infsheet/index.htm".
The survey also included some zinc supplements. The independent advisory Committee on Toxicity Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) considered intakes of zinc in the UK diet in 1995 and concluded that supplementing the diet with zinc preparations is unnecessary and unwise, unless there is good evidence of deficiency. This is because excessive levels may result in anaemia.
The need for additional controls on individual nutrients such as zinc in dietary supplements will be considered in the light of the recommendations of the independent Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals.
The survey was carried out by the MAFF/DH Joint Food Safety and Standards Group (JFSSG) and tested a total of 100 different products for the following 29 metals and other elements: aluminium, antimony, arsenic, barium, bismuth, boron, cadmium, calcium, chromium, cobalt, copper, germanium, gold, iron, lead, lithium, magnesium, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, nickel, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, silver, sodium, strontium, thallium and zinc.
This survey was carried out because previous investigations have shown that some dietary supplements can contain elevated levels of metals and other elements including some, such as lead, which can be harmful if intakes are excessive. Previous MAFF surveys on metals and other elements in dietary supplements have been reported in Food Surveillance Information Sheets Nos. 8 and 53 and in Food Surveillance Paper No.53 'Cadmium, Mercury and other Metals in Food'.
The results of this survey are published in summary in the November edition of the MAFF/DH Food Safety Information Bulletin published on 3 November 1998 and full details, including brand names and all results for all samples analysed, reported in Food Surveillance Information Sheet No.156: Metals and Other Elements in Dietary Supplements and Licensed Medicinal Products. Copies of Food Surveillance Information Sheet No. 156 are available from MAFF Publicity and Information Section, Room 303b, Ergon House, c/o Nobel House, Smith Square, London SW1P 3JR or via MAFF's Website on: "http://www.maff.gov.uk/food/infsheet/index.htm".
All foods, including dietary supplements, must comply with the provisions of The Food Safety Act 1990 and secondary food safety legislation such as The Lead in Food Regulations 1979 (S.I. No. 1254), as amended and The Arsenic in Food Regulations 1959 (S.I.  No. 831), as amended. Licensed medicinal products are regulated by The Medicines Control Agency and are controlled by The Medicines Act 1968 and secondary legislation such as The Medicines for Human Use (Marketing Authorisations etc.) Regulations 1994 (S.I. No. 3144).
A statutory general limit for lead in food of 1.0 mg/kg is set by The Lead in Food Regulations 1979 (S.I. No. 1254), as amended. A statutory general limit for arsenic in food of 1.0 mg/kg is set by The Arsenic in Food Regulations 1959 (S.I. No. 831), as amended. Both sets of Regulations also set separate limits for lead or arsenic in specified foods. There are no UK statutory limits for zinc in food.
The UK Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT), which gives the Government independent expert advice on the safety of chemicals in food, considered the intakes of antimony, barium, bismuth, germanium, gold, strontium and thallium calculated from the results of this survey this year. The COT's full statement can be obtained from: Mr Johnathan Lighthill, COT Secretariat, Room 652C, Skipton House, 80 London Road, London SE1 6LW. Tel: 0171 972 5007; Fax:0171 972 5134; e-mail: email@example.com.
The COT's statement covering intakes of zinc from the diet and from supplements is published in MAFF Food Surveillance Paper No.53 'Cadmium, Mercury and Other Metals In Food' (ISBN 0 11 243042 2) from The Stationery Office Bookshops or The Stationery Office Publication Centre, PO Box 276, London SW8 5DT; Tel: +44 (0)171 873 9090.
The need for maximum limits for zinc and other nutrients in dietary supplements is to be considered by the independent Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals. Jeff Rooker annouced the setting up of the Expert Group on 18 December 1997.