EC ruling will restrict sales of vitamins

A European Court ruling yesterday (Tuesday) to tighten the rules on the sale of vitamin and mineral supplements will see many products banned and the amount of vitamin doses in products restricted.

Under the ruling, manufacturers will only be able to include vitamins and minerals that are on an approved list. But for products already on sale, manufacturers have until the end of 2009 to eliminate any of the banned ingredients from their supplements. The European Court of Justice upheld the European Community’s Food Supplements Directive, which comes into force in August.

The decision is a blow for many in the industry, who argue that vitamin and mineral supplements on sale in the UK are safe enough and that no legislation is needed. The ban is being challenged by several groups, including the Alliance for Natural Health, the Health Food Manufacturers’ Association and the National Association of Health Stores.

They argue that the new laws will be too restrictive and would result in thousands of safe products being withdrawn from sale, while many small businesses and independent retailers are also likely to suffer.

The Government’s response to the decision has been cautious, but health minister Caroline Flint has hinted that some measures could be perceived as restrictive. She says: “Our aim has always been to ensure the safety of food supplements and support consumer choice without imposing unnecessary burdens on business. We are concerned that some of the provisions in the directive could be unduly burdensome.”

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