Auteur: | By Elitsa Vucheva
EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - An EU law restricting the sale of food supplements, including vitamins, is violating various guidelines and so is invalid, the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice said on Tuesday (5 April).
The so-called Food Supplements Directive, drawn by EU governments in 2002, tightens controls on products such as vitamin supplements and mineral plant extracts.
Only vitamins and minerals on an approved list should be used in supplements, according to the Directive. It also imposes restrictions on vitamin doses.
Furthermore, health food manufacturers have until 12 July this year to submit detailed and complete dossiers to prove that their ingredients are safe.
The costs of doing this, however, would be too big for many small firms, associations argued.
Food industries also said that 5,000 products would be threatened by this legislation, including more than 200 nutrients and some vitamin C products.
The British Health Food Manufacturers Association (HFMA), the National Association of Health Stores (NAHS) and the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH), brought the case ahead of implementation of the law, due in August.
The Advocate General, Leendert Geelhoed i, came down on their side in his statement.
The Directive "infringes the principle of proportionality, because basic principles of Community law, such as the requirements of legal protection, of legal certainty and of sound administration have not been properly taken into account. The Directive is, therefore, invalid", he stated in his conclusion.
However, he did not say he was opposed to the legislation in principle, leaving a door open for EU officials to redraw it.
The legal action was initially launched in the UK courts, and was handed over to the European Court of Justice last year.
One third of UK women and a quarter of men take health food supplements.
The Associations have welcomed Mr Geelhoed's recommendations.
"It is commendable that the EU Advocate General has seen through the flawed science and law of the Food Supplements Directive and reached his recommendations today", said Dr. Robert Verkerk, Executive Director of the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH).
"This is a great day for the tens of millions of people who believe passionately in the benefits of natural, preventative healthcare", he added.
A positive reaction also came from the European Parliament, as MEP John Bowis, a Health Spokesman for the Conservative group said:
"Conservative MEPs warned at the time that this Directive was several steps too far in the realm of the nanny state and I am delighted that at least at the first stage of the judicial conclusion, common sense and consumer choice is being endorsed".
The European Commission, on the other hand, declined to comment on the Advocate General's conclusions, saying it would prefer to wait until the final judgement of the Court.
The opinion of the Advocate General is not legally binding, as the European Judges are the ones to give the final ruling. However, in most cases, the judges follow the recommendations of the Advocate General.
The final ruling is expected before August, as this is the deadline for the law to come into force.