Last weekend, the ANH-Intl team made its annual pilgrimage to the Natural and Organic Products Europe (NOPE) trade show, held at Kensington Olympia in London.  As it is every year, NOPE 2013 was a bustling, vibrant affair that provided an unparalleled opportunity for ‘the trade’, notably manufacturers, retailers, suppliers and even the odd practitioner, to mingle, exchange ideas and gauge what’s happening in their sector.  And, of course, it seemed many were intent on leaving with a bulging goodie bag of free samples

NPE and the EU web

This year was different in one crucial respect, however: it was the first year that NOPE exhibitors and attendees have been fully entangled in the malignant web of European Union (EU) legislation affecting natural healthcare.  In 2013, the EU Register of health claims approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and enacted by the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation joined the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive, Food Supplements Directive, Novel Foods Regulation and EU Medicines Code/Human Medicinal Products Directive in an all-out, full-frontal attack on people’s ability to manage their health naturally.

Some important changes

So what was the visible effect of the cold, dead hand of EU bureaucracy on NOPE 2013?  As ANH-Intl’s founder and executive & scientific director, Robert Verkerk PhD, siad, “The food sector, particularly relative to the supplement sector, had grown and it was very apparent that the supplement sector had shrunk.  This is likely to be because of some of the regulatory issues that sector is feeling in particular.

”The other thing is that there was a greater presence of larger companies, and a smaller presence of the smaller, niche, innovative suppliers.  Our third observation is that there was a larger number of non-European manufacturers.”

Heads in the sand

One thing that the exhibition made abundantly clear was that far too many operators in the natural products sector are adopting an ostrich-like attitude to the regulatory threats to their businesses.  Rather than make a stand, it’s all too common for companies to fold at the first hint of pressure from the authorities.  Products have been ‘dumbed down’ through reformulation or simply removed from the marketplace – setting a deadly precedent for the future and emboldening the regulatory bully-boys.

Resistance is vital

Now, more than ever, is the time for those who believe in the enormous benefits of natural healthcare to make a stand against regulatory attacks on natural products that are not justified either scientifically or on grounds of public safety.  “It’s really important [for companies] to contest these decisions,” says Dr Verkerk.  “It’s also very good to be proactive...the companies that are being proactive...are being gratefully thanked by their customer base.”

As the regulatory clampdown on natural healthcare gathers steam, we must all take to heart the words of Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”


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