Food supplements legislation news

The Coalition Government has been good news for the consumer health industry. Andrew Lansley, the Secretary of State for Health, has given the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine a reprieve in the interests of patient choice. And Anne Milton, Conservative MP for Guildford, has become engaged in the controversial EU Directive on Food Supplements that threatened to wipe some supplements off the shelves, and limit others to low doses.

Sue Croft from the Consumers for Health Choice campaign spoke to the minister recently. Ms Milton claimed that she thought there should be proper understanding of the UK market and that any future proposals should be based on rigorous risk assessment and scientifically established safe levels. She advised the industry to continue to help in assembling high quality scientific evidence. 

The situation so far:

Around 300 vitamins and minerals have not been included on the list of those that can still be sold.

  • It will affect around 5,000 products which are already being reformulated, or which will be taken off health food store shelves;
  • Many well known vitamins such as Vitamin A, B5, B6, C and minerals such as manganese are due to be limited to much lower upper safety limits (see Table).

In this country the Directive became law on 1 August 2005, but a temporary period of grace was granted to the UK until 31 December 2009 during which time supplements can still be sold provided a full dossier has been submitted (and not rejected) to the relevant EU scientific advisory body, The European Food Standards Association by July.

There is still plenty of need to back the Consumers for Health Choice campaign – go to and find a template for a letter for your MEP.

Also sign the Downing Street petition – click here

Consumers for Health Choice celebrity supporters:

  • Sir Paul McCartney
  • Sir Elton John
  • Sir Cliff Richard
  • Carole Caplin
  • Jenny Seagrove
  • Lady Annabel Goldsmith
  • Zoe Ball
  • Chris Barber
  • Janey Lee Grace
  • Simon le Bon
  • Dr John Briffa .
  • Neneh Cherry
  • Phil Collins
  • Zac Goldsmith
  • Robert Hardy
  • Jules Holland
  • Suzi Quatro
  • Bianca Jagger
  • Julia McKenzie
  • Holly Johnson
  • Marcus Trescothick
  • Anthea Turner
  • Rick Wakeman
  • David Wilkie MBE
  • Charlie Watts
  • Thom York
What are these supplements?
Lower doses:

VITAMIN A: is essential for the health of eyes, boosts the immune system, reducing the risk of infection. As an anti-oxidant Vitamin A fights free radicals which roam around the body damaging cells. The level of 3,000 mcg a day has been safely used in the UK for years, but is set to be halved when the Directive becomes law.

VITAMIN B3: (Niacin): helps to maintain mental stability and memory, reduces headaches and lowers cholesterol levels. Patrick Holford often gives 500mg of niacin a day to mental health patients to maintain their stability. ‘They regress on lower levels and will suffer greatly from a restriction to 17mg as the recommended Upper Safe Level.’

VITAMIN B6: the subject of controversy in recent years, the new recommendation is 10mg a day. It is taken by 3 million Britons to ease PMS, stress, menopausal symptoms, and depression and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Patrick Holford claims, ‘Many women with PMS find that 100 mg a day of Vitamin B6 eases their symptoms, without any evidence of ill effects. The concern was that it produced nerve damage when taken in large doses, but a study of 555 people who took between 30mg and 230mg was carried out by the Institute of Optimum Nutrition. There were no adverse reactions or toxicity but there were considerable health benefits.’

VITAMIN C: boosts the immune system helping us to fight infections and colds, relieves allergies, and is vital for healthy skin. Many people with serious illnesses including cancer take high levels of Vitamin C.

Patrick Holford explains that the upper safe limit of 1,000mg a day has been set due to fear of Vitamin C causing kidney stones. ‘Robust medical research has already proven that 4,000mg a day has no negative effect whatsoever on kidney stone formation.’

He also claims that fears of loose bowels on 2,000 mg of Vitamin C are unfounded, particularly as a nationwide study found that 90 per cent of people didn’t go to the toilet even once a day!

MANGANESE: helps to neutralise free radicals, manufactures fat, sex hormones and breast milk and is essential to help the body use other vitamins and minerals. Patrick Holford believes that the recommended upper safe limit of 4g is not high enough. ‘A level of 20mg would be more appropriate, because only 5 per cent of the manganese we take is absorbed and people with low levels need that much to restore it.’

Not on the approved list:

BORON: helps the body to use calcium, is important for bone strength and used in menopause formulations, but it is not on the EU approved list. Patrick Holford, claims, ‘Boron has been proven in trials to be non-toxic.’ Deficiencies can cause high blood pressure, arthritis, osteoporosis.

SULPHUR: the late James Coburn and the actor Nick Nolte swore by MSM, a supplement which contains sulphur. Coburn was virtually crippled by arthritis but after taking the supplement in his seventies he had a new wife, exercised every day and made more films!!

Sulphur is also good for skin, hair and nails, relieving stress, asthma, countering the effects of ageing and detoxifying the body. Currently it is not on the approved list and could prove difficult to get when the legislation goes through.

CHROMIUM PICOLINATE: The main role of chromium in the body is to balance blood sugar levels, and reduce sugar cravings. Deficiency signs include dizziness, irritability if hungry, tiredness, and thirst. Chromium picolinate and polynicotinate are forms which the body can most easily use but they are not on the approved list.

CALCIUM CARBONATE: essential for healthy bones and teeth, helps to prevent osteoporosis in post-menopausal women, and promotes a healthy heart and nerves. Calcium carbonate is on the EU approved list, but amino acid chelate and citrate are not. ‘These forms should be included as they are absorbed twice as well as calcium carbonate which is on the approved list,’ explains Patrick Holford.

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