24 September 2003


By Michael Brennan

MOST popular food supplements will disappear off the shelves within two years, health stores have warned.

The EU Food Supplements Directive, now brought into Irish law, will place strict limits on potency and content of supplements from June 2005.

The Irish Association of Health Stores (IAHS) estimates up to 85% of products may be banned under the directive. It is supporting a legal challenge brought by the Alliance for Natural Health in Britain, which must be filed before the end of this month.

“There's not a lot of point protesting because it's pretty much a fait accompli, so our only hope is a legal challenge,” IAHS spokeswoman Erica Murray said.

There are approximately 150 health stores around the country. The IAHS estimates up to half of Irish adults regularly buy food supplements such as vitamins, minerals and cod liver oil.

Ms Murray, who runs the Hopsack health store in Rathmines, Co Dublin, said the directive would affect consumers who rely on food supplements to improve their health.

Companies wishing to comply with the directive can submit a dossier of research to prove the safety of their supplements. However, this is prohibitively expensive at €400,000 and many are expected to reformulate products instead. The IAHS argue this will result in low-dose products which will not appeal to consumers.

But the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) said the food supplements directive will provide a safer selection for consumers.

“It's regulating the sector for the first time and it means consumers will know what's in the products,” said deputy chief executive Alan Reilly.

The FSAI is concerned about the ‘outlandish claims' made for food supplements, particularly on the internet.