UK Laws Regulating Vitamin
Sales Ruled Invalid

By David Derbyshire and David Rennie
The Telegraph - UK

The British health food industry claimed a major victory yesterday after controversial laws to tighten up the sale of vitamin pills and health supplements were declared invalid.
The interim advice, issued by a senior judge at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, found that the legislation failed to protect the rights of individuals and firms seeking to have products declared safe for sale.
It was also scathing about the way the rules were drawn up, calling them "as transparent as a black box".
If the legal opinion is accepted by the full court, then much of the EU's Food Supplements Directive due to come into force in August may have to be rewritten.
The declaration followed a legal challenge from British campaigners who argued that the new rules would lead to thousands of common food supplements being banned.
"It is a very substantial victory and it's a crowbar in the door," said Dr Robert Verkerk, a spokesman for the Alliance for Natural Health.
The Food Supplements Directive was designed to standardise vitamin, mineral and food supplements, which are taken by about 43 per cent of Britons.
Under the new rules, only ingredients on an approved list could be used in supplements. There would also be restrictions on the upper limits of vitamin doses.
The industry was given until July 12 to submit detailed scientific dossiers proving that their ingredients were safe.
Supporters of the legislation said it would protect consumers who bought food supplements without any guarantees about quality or safety.
Critics, who included Carole Caplin, the former health and beauty adviser to Cherie Blair, said the rules were unnecessary and would lead to 5,000 products being banned.
The British Health Food Manufacturers Association, the National Association of Health Stores and Alliance for Natural Health, which launched the challenge, said the costs of complying were too high for small companies.
In his advice to the European Court of Justice, Leendert Geelhoed, the advocate general, backed the principle of an approved list.
But he said the wording of the directive was "seriously deficient" and infringed basic legal and administrative principles.
It lacked clearly-defined rules and norms for the European Commission to follow when deciding which products to add to the list.
It was also unclear whether manufacturers would be able to submit products for evaluation, he said.
"The directive does not comply with essential requirements of legal protection, of legal certainty and of sound administration, which are basic principles of Community law," he said.
"Thus it is lacking appropriate and transparent procedures for its application, and the directive infringes the principle of proportionality. It is therefore invalid."
The full court is expected to reach a verdict in a few months time. However, in most cases, judges follow the advice of the advocate general.
Andrew Lockley, from the solicitors Irwin Mitchell, the legal adviser to the HFMA and NAHS, said: "It is encouraging that the advocate general has supported our view that the directive does not provide a fair mechanism for the regulation of food supplements."
Peter Aldis, the managing director of the health food chain Holland & Barrett, said: "The opinion is a scathing indictment of this shoddy piece of legislation.
"The court's conclusions show the European Commission and those who agreed this flawed regulation in an extremely bad light.
"The Prime Minister must now intervene to ensure that all the ingredients that would otherwise come off the UK market in July are protected by the immediate submission of the necessary dossiers to Europe by the Food Standards Agency."
Chris Grayling, the shadow health minister, said: "This is not the final ruling, but I am confident that we are in a position where we're close to winning the battle to scrap this controversial measure."
© Copyright of Telegraph Group Limited 2005.



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