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UK: Health Minister Wants Exemption From EU Supplements Directive

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Minister pledges support for consumers and industry over Directives
November 23, 2005
The recently appointed health minister, Caroline Flint, has pledged continued government support to consumers and industry over EU regulations that threaten access to safe and effective natural health products.

Speaking at the Consumers for Health Choice (CHC) Annual Parliamentary Reception Flint said that since taking office she had personally been involved with a series of discussions and briefings with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) on the Food Supplements Directive (FSD). She was confident that these, and other on-going discussions, would enable Britain to negotiate the best deal in Europe for British consumers and industry. She added that she had recently given ministerial approval to the FSA Board’s proposal that Britain should seek a ‘national exception’ in Europe which, if successfully agreed with the EC, would enable higher dose VMS products to stay on the shelves.

Flint, a pro-European, said that the biggest challenges facing the natural products industry in Europe were cultural not institutional. “Sometimes it is simply a case that there is someone in Germany who doesn’t understand the different trading and consumer traditions in, say, Britain or the Netherlands. We need to find ways of dealing with these cultural differences sensibly and effectively.”

Speaking on the subject of the Herbals Directive, Flint commented: “This is an area where I know there are differing views. Some people believe that the regulations are welcome and overdue. But at the same time I accept that government should be giving maximum support to industry to help manufacturers get their products registered.”

In his speech CHC chair, Michael Peet, said he welcomed the interest the new minister had given to consumer and industry concerns over the FSD and other EU legislation.
He commented: “I believe that we are witnessing a paradigm shift in government thinking on these issues and am hopeful that this could, finally, set us on a route to finding a safe home in Europe for our products.” But he added that CHC’s own message to government had become increasingly hard-hitting politically, largely because of the inaction of previous ministers.

CHC director, Sue Croft, said she had been delighted with the way the reception had gone. “It was very well attended, with good representations from both Houses of Parliament. In terms of getting across our message to individual MPs and Peers I think this was probably our best ever House of Commons reception.”

However Croft agreed with long-time CHC supporter, Austin Mitchell MP, who said that the “fight against overzealous EU regulations” had to continue if the battle was to be won. Switching his attention to recent media scares about supplements, Mitchell said: “The streets would be littered with the dead if vitamins were half as dangerous as some people would have you believe.”

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