Alliance for Natural Health

 *** Press release ***

9 June 2005: for immediate release

EU Food Supplements Directive legal challenge

Consumers, practitioners, retailers and innovative food supplement companies came together in 2003 under the umbrella of the Alliance for Natural Health, to challenge the European Food Supplements Directive. This Directive, set to affect over 30% of Europeans who regularly consume food supplements, has the potential to ban some 75% of vitamin and mineral forms, especially those found naturally in foods, affecting around 5000 products in the UK alone.

The case was brought initially in the High Court in London in October 2003, and was successfully referred and expedited to the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg in January 2004. Oral hearings were presented to the Court a year later, culminating in an Opinion from the Court's Advocate General, issued on 5 April this year.

The Advocate General, Leendert Geelhoed, declared in his Opinion that the Directive was fundamentally flawed, and contravened EU law. He concluded:

“…that the Directive infringes the principle of proportionality, because basic principles of Community law, such as the requirements of legal protection, of legal certainty and of sound administration have not been properly taken into account. The Directive is, therefore, invalid.”

The European Court of Justice has now declared that the judgment, made by the thirteen Judges presiding over the case, will be handed down at 09:30 h on 12 July 2005, in the Courtroom of the Court, Boulevard Konrad Andenauer, Luxembourg-Kirchberg.

Executive director of the Alliance for Natural Health, Dr Robert Verkerk, commented:

“The judgement will hopefully give rise to an amendment to the Directive that will result in much greater clarity for consumers and manufacturers of food supplements across Europe. This amendment is needed to prevent important nutrients being lost in food supplements. The Alliance for Natural Health is now close to commissioning an independent group of risk assessment scientists in Europe to help develop a new regulatory framework that is based on good science and good law. Such a framework would be likely to suggest that a Regulator should not determine which ingredients are allowed in supplements without also determining, based on all available science, the maximum dosages. The Food Supplements Directive currently separates these two issues. If this work had been undertaken before the Directive had been finalised, we would never have seen the attempted implementation of a defective Directive.”

The ruling will potentially have significant impacts on the parallel development of international guidelines for vitamin and mineral food supplements by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, which are near finalisation. This body, composed of delegates from around 90 governments and 40 non-governmental organisations, will meet in Rome on 4 to 9 July to decide whether to finalise these guidelines.

Since this Codex meeting occurs just before the date of the European Court ruling, the Alliance for Natural Health argues that it would be premature to finalise the Codex guidelines on vitamin and mineral food supplements before both the EU Food Supplements Directive is amended, and an improved system for risk assessment of nutrients is developed.

Dr Verkerk adds, drawing a further parallel with the Food Supplements Directive case:

“There is good evidence that in the effort to push through the Codex guidelines, procedural errors have again been made. Governments and regulators, as well as the many interests in this area, need to work together to put these right. There is a huge amount at stake for the future of natural healthcare.”

*** ENDS ***


Dr Robert Verkerk, Executive Director, Alliance for Natural Health
Tel:       +44 (0)1252 371 275
Mobile: +44 (0)771 484 7225
Email:   [email protected]