Selling Vitamin Pills Shouldn't Be a Crime
Mail on Sunday
15 Apr 2004
(Source: Life Extention Daily News)
We live in a world awash with legally available substances that maim, kill and cause havoc, cigarettes and alcohol being only the two most obvious examples.
Fast-food outlets make billions of pounds selling products saturated in fat, salt and empty calories that contribute to the epidemic of obesity and diabetes now threatening to overwhelm our health service.
No one is proposing to make any of these things illegal. Yet we can all rest easy in our beds, because the Government is on the case. The nanny state has looked around for dangerous substances to ban, and guess what it's come up with?
Vitamin and mineral supplements, and traditional herbal remedies.
Under a recent European Commission directive, which our Government has accepted without demur, an estimated 5,000 vitamin and mineral supplements will become illegal from August 1 next year, and will disappear from our shops. Any shopkeeper who continues to sell them will be committing a criminal offence.
A thriving industry will be all but wiped out, and thousands of people will lose their jobs. Millions of us who wish to use supplements and herbal remedies to support our health and prevent illness will have our freedom of choice drastically curtailed.
Can you believe it? While offlicences and fast-food outlets can continue to peddle anything they want, however demonstrably injurious to health, the small healthfood shop next door will be all but driven out of business. Under the new law, only vitamins and minerals that are on a government 'positive list' can be sold legally. Any nutrient that is not on this list will be banned.
Manufacturers have until July next year to submit dossiers of detailed scientific data to support applications for inclusion on the positive list, but producing these dossiers will be incredibly expensive.
Many manufacturers will be unable to afford the costs. As a result, consumers will be denied access to hundreds of safe nutrients minerals such as boron and selenium, and numerous forms of vitamins A, C and E many of which have been on sale for decades without problem.
The director of the National Association of Health Stores, Ralph Pike, says that it costs about Pounds 300,000 to compile an acceptable scientific dossier on any single ingredient. Yet many popular multivitamin supplements contain up to 17 separate ingredients. You can see how uneconomic it will be for any small to medium manufacturer to compile the required dossier on such products.
Another problem is that the EC directive sets maximum levels of nutrients for supplements, and these maximum levels in many cases are ridiculously low.
As a result, highpotency vitamin C pills, to give but one example, will also be banned.
Where is the vital principle of consumer choice in all this? Adults are allowed to buy cigarettes and alcohol in any quantity they like, and make their own decisions as to how much they drink or smoke, regardless of proven health risks. Yet vitamin and mineral supplements, which actually contribute to good health and help compensate for poor diets and lack of nutrients in our food, are to be banned, as though we live in some sort of police state.
Amazingly, this comes at a time when studies are increasingly showing that modern farming methods and plant-breeding techniques are stripping our basic foodstuffs of many of the vitamins and minerals essential for human health.
Over the past 60 years, the levels of iron, magnesium, potassium, copper and other minerals essential for the body's biochemical balance have dropped by between a quarter and threequarters in fruit and vegetables.
Low trace elements in diets have been linked to obesity, insulin resistance, heart disease and mental illness. Yet in future, many of the food supplements that millions of us buy to boost our intake of trace elements and vitamins will be banned.
This is all madness. Only one thing will force the Government to reconsider mass consumer protest.
It seems to be working with GM foods. Last week, the giant German chemical firm Bayer unexpectedly announced that it was dropping plans to grow Britain's first commercial GM crop, despite being given the green light by the Government.
Bayer CropScience isn't saying why it abandoned its plans to grow a variety of GM maize, but it appears the company concluded consumer opposition could make it impossible to find a market for this product.
Only a few weeks earlier, Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett had approved this maize, despite a Government study which found that nine out of ten people reject commercial cultivation of GM crops without firm proof they won't harm our health or the environment.
Junior Health Minister Melanie Johnson has also repeatedly ignored protests about the impact of the new EU directives from consumers, manufacturers and retailers of food supplements and herbal remedies.
But it's still not too late. If, like me, you consider this latest development absolutely outrageous, there are several things you can do. One simple step is to log on to www.conservatives.com / vitamins and sign an online petition, backed by the Conservatives, urging the Government to reconsider. They are hoping to collect up to ten million signatures.
Another is to call into any health-food shop and ask for information and advice on how you can join the growing consumer revolt.
The National Association of Health Stores has launched a fighting fund to finance future legal challenges and public campaigns.
An organisation called Consumers for Health Choice also has a website where you can read more background reports and information on this issue.