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Europe D66 European Parliament

Ban on popular Vitamins

   Tue 12/03/2002

Thousands of people locally may be denied access to the vitamin and mineral supplements they take regularly unless a plan to introduce expensive new testing procedures is thrown out by the European Parliament on Wednesday (March 13). Dutch Euro MP Lousewies van der Laan is leading the fight against the proposals which she fears will curb the freedom of shoppers to buy products which have never been shown to cause harm.

"No-one has ever died of a vitamin overdose," she said. "I'm in favour of proper labelling to give consumers good information about sensible doses but the new testing requirements are like taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut."

Amongst some of the 300 products which will now be subject to the tests are pills made from calcium, potassium and magnesium, believed to strengthen bones and maintain blood pressure. Chromium, which is widely used by diabetics, and MSM, said to relieve joint pain, may also be prohibited.

Supporters of the measures claim that they are being introduced because of fears about the safety of some products, but the Democrats 66 MEP says that the European Commission, is actually introducing them to create common rules for the sale of vitamins across the EU.

She claims that the products have a proven track record of safety, and that the driving force behind the measure comes from large pharmaceutical companies seeking to dominate the lucrative market in alternative medicines and push thousands of small manufacturers out of business.

Manufacturers will have to submit the results of tests which may cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to a European scientific committee if they wish their products to be allowed to stay on the market.

Ms van der Laan said: "These are not dangerous pharmaceutical products but food supplements bought by people who believe that the products have health benefits or who fear that their normal diet is inadequate.

"The European Commission would be quite right to propose bans on products shown to cause harm, but there is no such evidence about vitamin supplements and no need for such draconian action."

The Democrats 66 MEP said that she feared that opponents of the legislation would be in a minority in the European Parliament, having already been outvoted by five to three during committee debates.

"We have at least won some extra time," she said, "and it should be several years before we are at the stage when the legislation will force products off the market."