The ANH has received a disappointing response from the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) to its submission to the Public Consultation on proposed ‘national legislation’ concerning food supplements and the addition of vitamins and minerals to food. While ‘national legislation’ might sound very independent, it is nothing other than a statutory instrument which transposes yet another European Directive into UK law. The same is happening in the other 26 European Member States.
This response clearly suggests to us that very serious public, industry and practitioner concerns about the controversial EU Food Supplements Directive 2002/46/EC (FSD) are unimportant when weighed up against the Agency’s clear, but undeclared, mission to go full steam ahead in the direction decided by the undemocratic European institutions (in this case, primarily the European Commission and the European Food Safety Authority).
This is despite the ‘about us’ statement on the FSA website which clearly states that their aim is: ‘to protect the (UK) public’s health and consumer interests in relation to food’! This statement sounds rather hollow in the wake of their dismissal of our concerns, for example, about highly toxic forms such as selenious acid having been added to the list of allowed minerals and safe, beneficial forms, such as natural form of folate, 5-methyl-tetrahydrofolate, being omitted. Please refer to ANH Press Release: Food supplement ban in 2010 may contravene EU law.
Missing the mark or side-stepping
All in all, 11 respondents to the public consultation were listed by the FSA, and a summary of the responses can be found on their website.
In general, the replies we received to our general and specific concerns appeared to be stock, empty replies that fell short of the mark, or sidestepped the main issues.
Rather than responding to the problems we highlighted about the ‘confused’ risk assessment methods employed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the FSA replies focused on the facts about submission of dossiers.
It is interesting that, with regard to our specific question about the inclusion of sodium chloride in Annex II, despite the association with hypertension, the FSA justified it with reference to information received by the FSA rather than by EFSA decisions based on dossiers!
On the question of fluoride, our specific enquiry concerned the whereabouts of data demonstrating safe usage in supplements. The FSA typically put the ball back in the court of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). If EFSA allows it, it must be safe, says the FSA. They should remember there are increasing numbers of Europeans disillusioned with EFSA opinions – EFSA after all were the people who called two GM maize varieties safe, a view now contradicted by the Environment Ministers’s of all but 4 EU Member States.
We are surprised by the FSA’s comment that they disagree with our clear understanding that the adoption of Annex I and II is not aligned with paragraph 73 of the ruling of our case in the European Court of Justice (ECJ) (Alliance for Natural Health and others (2004); Joined Cases C-154/04 and C-155/04). The implication of the latter is that a ban cannot be implemented by a competent authority unless a risk to public health following scientific risk assessment can be proven.
Also in their response, the FSA gave no reply (other than reference to previous communication) to our clear understanding that the only vitamins and minerals which may be prohibited from Annex I, are those “which are not normally found in, or consumed as part of, the diet” (paragraph 135 of the above-mentioned ECJ judgement); and that the only criterion relevant to the inclusion in Annex I, of vitamins and minerals, is that they must be “found in and consumed as part of the diet” (paragraph 91 of the same).
Bias and flawed science – a disease of regulators and government agencies?
The ANH has been making our views clear about bad science in risk assessment to various agencies for a number of years, including to the FSA.
Back in 2002, when the FSA’s largely pharma-based, and therefore biased Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals (EVM) released their controversial report, the aim of which was to provide the Government’s definitive view on ‘upper safe levels’ of vitamins and minerals, the ANH issued a detailed consultation. The ANH critique was one of the first to be heavily critical of typical approaches to risk assessment adopted by the likes of the EVM, the US’s Institute of Medicine and Europe’s EFSA.
We have also repeatedly highlighted the bad science being employed by EFSA which seems to be intent on making decisions that appear to subject the consumer to continuing risk, whilst at the same time denying benefit. All of this, supposedly in the name of consumer protection. With the implementation of the EU FSD into UK law, the FSA are effectively endorsing this bad science.
It seems that EFSA, and now the FSA too, despite their declared protection of ‘consumer interests’, have actually handed over all their power to the unelected institutions of Europe. Domestic regulators like the FSA might cite their desire to protect their citizens, but the reality is that they have thrown out their ability to do anything in the public health interest that isn’t dictated by Europe. This is after all what the Lisbon Treaty is all about!
The big losers here are those who care about the fundamental principles, like freedom of speech and the rule of law, on which supposedly civilised and democratic societies were based. That’s us, folks!
Make your voice heard!
European citizens – please make your sentiments known to your elected representative. You can find out more from point 2 of our Get Involved page.