Source: Nutraingredients article by Shane Starling, 1st December 2010

Polish legal researchers have slammed the 2002 Food Supplements Directive (FSD) (Directive 2002/46/EC) for being so vaguely and badly written that it is impeding one of its stated aims – to harmonise and boost trade across the European Union’s 27 Member States.

The main problems identified by the researchers are:

  • No clear definition of a “food supplement”
  • No clear definition of what is a “normal diet” in the European Union (EU)
  • Ambiguous treatment of nutrients such as amino acids, fatty acids, fibre and herbal extracts
  • Unconfirmed dosage levels

They say that the resulting legislation “turns out to be useless” and “fails to comply not only with the standards of good legislation but even basic legislative requirements.” Writing in European Food and Feed Law Review, the University of Warsaw’s Professor Malgorzata Korzycka-Iwanow (Head of Department of Food Law) and Monika Zboralska (doctorate researcher) concluded that the FSD’s attempt to ring-fence food supplements was proving counterproductive: “…[the] remarkable difficulties associated with qualifying a product as a food supplement, especially [compared with] a medicinal product, is seen as an impediment [to] free movement of goods within the EU.” 

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ANH Comment

The Polish researchers raise many fair points. It’s after all why the ANH went to court to challenge the irrationality of the EU’s Food Supplements Directive back in 2003. The Directive was meant to be a framework Directive for all manner of nutrients, not only vitamins and minerals. But then the European Commission decided in 2008 to limit EU harmonisation via the Directive only to supplements containing vitamins and minerals. This leaves all other categories of nutrients (whatever a nutrient might be) to the vagaries of national rules — 27 versions of which exist, one for each Member State. This is of course why a crucially important category, namely botanicals, is left blowing in the wind, particularly when a lot of these are viewed of being so important to consumers. In order to try to maintain its requirement to facilitate the functioning of the EU’s single market, the European Commission has tasked the European Food Safety Authority in Parma with providing guidance on food supplements. This is also rather vague and at present it doesn’t seem to have done much to kerb the view of highly restrictive governments such as Germany or Denmark who appear to want only a very limited number of herbal food supplements on the market.

While the future for botanical food supplements appears so unsure, we are of the opinion that a judicial review that evaluates the way in which the EU’s herbal directive affects the trade in botanical products used in healthcare by millions of Europeans is a pivotal step in trying to ensure freedom of choice in natural healthcare.

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For more information:

ANH-Europe homepage

ANH-Intl Health Choice campaign page