The full implications of using so-called 'scientific risk assessment methods' confirm our worst fears, offering ultra-low ceilings for dosages of vitamins and minerals
ANH PRESS RELEASE For immediate release / international dissemination
19 January 2005
NEW GERMAN REPORT CLAIMS THAT FOOD SUPPLEMENTS ARE UNSAFE
A newly established German institution, the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), released yesterday a 341-page report  on risk assessment of nutrients used in food supplements. The report makes recommendations for maximum levels that are well below those that are commonly present in vitamin and mineral supplements sold in health stores in the UK, Ireland, Sweden, other EU countries, the USA and elsewhere. Many people might, understandably, assume, as a result of this report, that commonly availablefood supplements are unsafe.
The Alliance for Natural Health (ANH), a pan-European body of interests in the natural healthcare field, strongly contests the science used by the German institute. Good science and good law underpin all of the ANH's work, and the scientific reports produced by the ANH are endorsed by many of the world's leading doctors and scientists working in the field of nutritional medicine.
The report, for example, recommends a maximum level of vitamin C of 225 mg in food supplements, when many health stores sell 1000 mg tablets, and significant numbers of people consume 2000 mg or more per day. Maximum recommended dosages for vitamin B6 have been set at 5.4 mg, against 25 mg or more commonly found in UK and USsupplements, while vitamin B12 has been set at an astonishing 9 mcg, compared with over 300 mcg in many supplements.
Many European countries have for years considered multiples of Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for nutrients as a means of assessing safety, but this approach has been found to be scientifically unjustifiable as RDAs are minimum levels that guard against the development of deficiency diseases that are uncommon in modern, western societies, such as scurvy, beri-beri, pellagra and rickets. Scientific risk assessment is the recently acclaimed approach that will replace RDAs for evaluation of safety, having been endorsed both by the European Union in its Food Supplements Directive, set to come into force in August this year, and the United Nation's Codex Alimentarius, which develops global guidelines for food safety.
Dr Robert Verkerk, executive director of the ANH says:
“The maximum levels for vitamins and minerals proposed by BfR are in many cases far lower than those required for optimum health. They have used what is purportedly a scientific method, to produce data that is meaningless for the majority of the population.
“The problem is that the poor science used in this report will be viewed seriously by EFSA - the European Food Safety Authority - that is developing maximum levels for use in food supplements across in Europe, and Codex Alimentarius, which is setting global guidelines on vitamins and minerals. In the worse case scenario, the science could be adopted by EFSA lock stock and barrel and that would be catastrophic for the leading edge of the natural products industry in Europe, as well as US innovative suppliers, practitioners and consumers of these products.”
In December 2004, the ANH submitted a ground-breaking critique  of risk assessment methods to the FAO/WHO of the United Nations in response to a consultation on the subject. The ANH report demonstrated the flawed nature of existing scientific risk assessment methods used by the EU's Scientific Committee on Food, in turn used as the baseline for upper levels by BfR. BfR have gone on, as proposed in the EU's Food Supplements Directive, to reduce further the already unnecessarily low ‘upper safe levels' by taking into account dietary intakes and susceptible population groups, and ended up with meaningless, unreasonably low maximum recommended levels for food supplements.
The ANH's landmark case against the EU's proposed ban on 75% of vitamin and mineral forms currently on the UK market is due to be heard in the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg on 25 January.