Brexit: A lucky escape from the Vitamin Laws

Jul
15
2016
by
thayne
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Whether or not you’re for or against Brexit, there’s one undeniable area where Britain has an opportunity to improve things: the natural health and supplements market.

Back in 2000, the Brussels European Commission declared that there was a wide disparity between the laws of individual EU members on the dosages allowed for vitamin supplements.

In France and Germany, for instance, no products containing more than one to three times the RDA could be sold without a pharmaceutical license, while the UK and the Netherlands had always enjoyed liberal laws relating to the content of vitamins, with few trade restrictions across other European countries. 

Whether or not you’re for or against Brexit, there’s one undeniable area where Britain has an opportunity to improve things: the natural health and supplements market.

Back in 2000, the Brussels European Commission declared that there was a wide disparity between the laws of individual EU members on the dosages allowed for vitamin supplements.

In France and Germany, for instance, no products containing more than one to three times the RDA could be sold without a pharmaceutical license, while the UK and the Netherlands had always enjoyed liberal laws relating to the content of vitamins, with few trade restrictions across other European countries.

The effect of this was that, in certain countries of Europe, local suppliers had to stand by watching helplessly, their hands tied by their own stringent laws, while British exporters declare open season on their local vitamin business.

It was amid such a climate of obvious trade disparity that the EU suggested a directive which would standardize laws concerning vitamin supplements all across Europe and protect consumers. The EU also wished to create a standardized market for health foods and supplements under the guise of setting a universal standard of safety. So far, so good.

In the hands of giants
Although painted with a consumerist face, these directives were patently about creating a level commercial playing field.

They would allow the big vitamin giants to sell their products across Europe without having to reformulate them to comply with the requirements of individual countries. This meant that cheap low-grade products could be produced in bulk quantities at even cheaper cost and with greater profits.

The directive sought to create a single market for food supplements through several means, including devising a list of ingredients which may be used in supplements, creating common maximum permitted levels of these nutrients, providing common criteria for purity and labeling, and requiring that all member states prohibit any trade in products not complying with the directive.

One of the main issues of the directive centered around the use of a 'positive list' of permitted ingredients. At the end of the directive, a list is attached of nutrients which are approved for inclusion in food supplements.

According to Dr Rob Verkerk, director of the Alliance for Natural Health and an internationally acclaimed expert on the effect of the EU laws on the natural products industry, the end result of this directive has ‘prevented legal sale of many hundreds of mineral forms, including all forms of silver and vanadium.

The positive list
But the most worrying portion of the directive concerned the criteria for determining permitted levels of nutrients – still to be decided.

In making their determination, the European Commission indicated that it will take into account the highest intake shown to be safe before adverse events appear, plus the intake of nutrients from a 'normal' diet, plus the intake from 'fortified foods'. They've also indicated that they will subtract some amounts just to be on the safe side.

This means in practice is that the levels will be set well below levels demonstrated to be therapeutically effective.

For instance, what may finally emerge is a level of B6 as low as 5 mg. This would mean that British women taking 50-100 mg of B6 for PMS per day would have to swallow 10 to 20 vitamin pills every day just to maintain the levels they are used to.

There are 11 more directives like this, which include:

The Human Medicinal Products Directive. This gave the EU a legal framework to classify any product as ‘medicinal’ (and therefore a drug) if there is any evidence that it actually helps anyone – and therefore be subject to the same sort of massively expensive testing and proof required of drugs.

The Traditional Herbal Directive, which has cleared off the shelves of health stores any traditional herbal remedy without at least 15 years of safe use in the EU and some with a mix of herbs.

The Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation, which has banned more than 2000 health claims with extremely plausible evidence, and so has essentially prevented the health industry from telling consumers that their products have any benefit whatsoever.

The Food Information for Consumers Regulation, which clearly encourages consumers to opt for highly processed foods because they will have more labeling information than natural foods.

The Pesticides Residue Regulation. This insidious law both mandates the use of the known carcinogenic pesticide glyphosate and ignores the combined effects of multiple pesticides.

As Rob Verkerk wrote recently, the EU’s ‘convoluted law-making process commission often means that you start with laws that are totally justifiable’ but then ‘the laws get pulled, pushed, squeezed and distorted by a plethora of different interests over the lengthy time they are processed in the EU’s law-making sausage factory.’

Above all, he says, the law-making process ‘is stage-managed by the European Commission that is well known for running rough-shod over the last remnants of the democratic process. Compromise packages are the name of the game, and they typically involve back-room deals between Commissioners, rapporteurs and whichever Big Business sector has made the best case for why its interests need protecting over and above any public health interests or fundamental public freedoms.’

All of these laws reveal the heavy hand of the Big Pharma and Big Food industry lobbies to a shameful degree.

One of the first tasks of the new British government will be to extricate itself from these overly restrictive laws and revitalize the innovative health industry.

This will involve disbanding the positive list, studying the huge evidence of the benefits of high-dose supplements, relaxing some of the restrictions on herbal medicine, and disassociating Britain’s health industry from many of the restrictive definitions that essentially ban many products with an enormous amount of evidence.

Now is the time for organizations in the natural industry and all interested consumers to shout loudly about reform. If you want to have full access to natural health products, share this blog, write about this widely and encourage your British friends to write to their MP.

At last the British government is able to listen.

thayne

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