The European Union's Health and Consumer Directorate seems to have a habit of financing its own, 'critical' consumer campaigns. An example has come to light recently - a 'consumer' campaign in Italy, Spain and Greece, with the aim of telling people that food supplements are 'dangerous' and that regulations, such as the European Food Supplements Directive, recently challenged in the European Court of Justice, are therefore well justified.
What is significant about this is the thinly veiled pretense of consumer representation of this publicly financed campaign, when in fact those consumers who do use supplements in their daily health regimes are never asked nor even informed.
After attending an event organized by the Italian association Adiconsumand seeing that real consumers were quite conspicuously absent, I wrote a message to a friend in Spain, to tell about a similar campaign underway in that country.
Date: Wed, 14 Apr 2004
To: Carlos Vinas
From: Sepp (Josef) Hasslberger
Recently I have come across CECU, the Confederacion de Consumidores y Usurarios, which participated in an event here in Rome, organized by a similar Italian association called Adiconsum. The February 2004 event was sponsored by the European Commission's Direccion General de Sanidad y Ptoteccion de los Consumidores.
The Spanish CECU, Italian Adiconsum and a third association from Greece called EKATO, are mounting an "information campaign" involving booklets printed with EU Commission money and distributed in schools, which warn against "grave dangers" of food supplements. Some information on the campaign in Spanish can be found on this page on the CECU site. The Italian event is described on this page on the Adiconsum site.
I find it interesting and would like to keep at least a minimal record of this campaign, where the European Union's Consumer Directorate is dedicating specific financing (public funds) to an information campaign that practically says supplements are dangerous. This appears to be part of a strategy to gain 'public acceptance' for the food supplements directive by having a front group paint an exaggerated picture of "dangers", while on the other side the EU Commission publicly maintains that good nutrition is important for health.
It appears to me that the European Union in this case is financing its own "consumer" representation, although none of these associations really represent consumers of supplements or health-conscious people. Those doing the campaigning with EU finances would not know what proper nutrition should consist of, even if you told them.
We are witnessing a case of artificial 'consumer' opposition (internationally visible thanks to grants from the EU itself) campaigning in a way that intended to manufacture consensus for the making of rules and regulations which will eventually make it difficult for those consumers who really are using supplements in taking care of their own health, to obtain those supplements freely.
Things are not always what they appear to be...