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Euro-MPs vote for clampdown on vitamin sales
By Ambrose Evans-Pritchard in Brussels
(Filed: 14/03/2002)

THE European Parliament voted yesterday for a clampdown on unfettered sales of vitamins and mineral supplements, defying a lobbying campaign by the health food industry.

The parliament's computer system crashed under the strain of thousands of speed-dial emails, wildly claiming that the new directive would ban 300 popular supplements and drive British health stores out of business.

In Strasbourg, Euro-MPs were accosted by activists handing out a propaganda video accusing five European commissioners of corruptly colluding with big pharmaceutical firms in an attempt to destroy the alternative network of homoeopathic and natural medicines.

The new law will bring Britain into line with the rest of Europe over the next 10 years, requiring manufacturers of vitamins and minerals to carry out scientific tests proving that their products are safe.

The labels on pills will recommend maximum safe doses, highlight possible risks and side-effects and remind users that supplements are no substitute for a healthy diet.

At the moment, any supplement can be sold in Britain unless it is shown to be harmful, a policy that reflects the legal tradition of English common law that allows people to do what they want unless specifically banned. By contrast, Europe's Napoleonic legal system starts from the premise that everything is banned until legally authorised.

Only 50 or so vitamins and minerals are on the safe list in most EU countries, so rarer products such as Selenium compounds used to treat cancer can only be obtained through prescription drugs, generating a much higher profit for the big drug companies. Dr Robert Verkerk, spokesman for the Free Choice for Supplements Alliance, said: "The directive would massively reduce the freedom of consumers to make their own informed choices."

Small companies producing many vitamins and minerals considered a life-saver by people with unusual ailments would have great trouble meeting the costs of full testing on each product.

11 March 2002: 300 vitamin treaments face ban in Euro purge
25 November 2001: Sales slump as Britons lose faith in vitamin pills
16 May 2001: Vitamin jabs 'putting Halliwell in danger'

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External links  
 
Food safety - Europa
 
Vitamins - British Nutrition Foundation
 
British Nutrition Foundation