New EU rules could drive trusted health supplements off the shelves
Posted, May 09, 2012 @ 14:00
Some of Britain's most popular health foods and dietary supplements could be forced off the market because of over-zealous new EU labelling regulations, a senior Conservative MEP has warned.
Julie Girling, Conservative chief whip in the European Parliament, said new rules over health claims on food labels would create an "utterly disproportionate" burden of proof of their efficacy. The regulations were likely to mean UK consumers being denied a whole range of respected, trusted and extremely popular supplements which they currently take for their health.
She said it was disappointing that her proposal to resist the measures was blocked with the help of two British members of the parliament's Environment Committee, Labour's Linda McAvan and Liberal Democrat Chris Davies.
Mrs Girling had called for the parliament to conduct an impact assessment of any disproportionate and unwarranted consequences of the new regulations before they were implemented. However, her proposal was blocked with the help of the two UK MEPs.
Mrs Girling said: "These unwelcome new regulations will directly hit several supplements and tonics which are very popular in the UK and used daily by thousands of British consumers.
"I had hoped that fellow British MEPs would join me in defending the future of products which British consumers value so highly, but they did not."
The regulations will demand that any health claims made for the supplements must be backed by a programme of detailed scientific tests proving their effectiveness beyond any possible doubt - otherwise the health benefit cannot be mentioned on labelling.
Following the rejection of Mrs Girling's more cautious approach, a list of products which must remove health claims from their labels will be announced on May 23. Manufacturers will then have six months to comply.
Among the popular generic products affected are glucosamine and chondroitin, taken to help the suppleness of joints, lutein which is said to improve resistance to eye disease , and dietary fibre eaten to promote a healthy digestive system.
Mrs Girling fears that unless perceived health benefits can be promoted on their labelling, the products may disappear from the shelves as they become unprofitable to produce and market.
The South West MEP said: "This is not a case of blindly backing health food businesses. We are trying to help the thousands of consumers who swear by these products. I have been overwhelmed by the number of them who have contacted me to voice their concerns.
"We don't want people being sold snake oil - we are talking here about products which customers have come to trust and value over many years. Instead of the manufacturer being able to rely on historic data and a reasonable balance of evidence to back their health claims, they are instead being asked to conduct incredibly rigorous scientific testing.
"They are being required to match the standards of proof we expect from the pharmaceutical industry. The EU is applying the same standards we set for cancer drugs to people's everyday health supplements and tonics.
"It is utterly disproportionate and denies people the right to exercise their common sense."