Dietary Supplements: EU Law

Health written question – answered on 22nd October 2008.

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Photo of Sarah Teather Sarah Teather Shadow Minister (Communities and Local Government) (Housing and Planning)

To ask the Secretary of State for Health

(1) when he last met manufacturers of food supplements to discuss the impact upon their businesses of the setting of maximum permitted levels for vitamins and minerals in food supplements; when he plans to have further discussions with them; what progress has been made in securing the Government's objectives for the interpretation and implementation of the Food Supplements Directive; and if he will make a statement;

(2) whether Member States were consulted by the European Commission on the impact assessment of different options for the maximum permitted levels for vitamins and minerals under the Food Supplements Directive; and what assessment the Food Standards Agency has made of the impact of each of those options upon (a) specialist manufacturers, (b) specialist retailers and (c) consumer choice;

(3) if he will set out the timetable for the setting of maximum permitted levels for vitamins and minerals under the provisions of Article 5 of the Food Supplements Directive;

(4) what discussions he has had with the Government of (a) Jersey and (b) Guernsey on the implementation of the Food Supplements Directive and European medicines law; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Dawn Primarolo Dawn Primarolo Minister of State (Department of Health) (Public Health)

The interests of United Kingdom manufacturers of specialist food supplements are being represented as part of working group discussions and bilateral meetings between the Food Standards Agency (FSA) and their counterparts in other member states.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has been running an extensive programme to manage the regulatory impact of the traditional herbal registration scheme. This programme, which includes individual company meetings held free of charge to help companies progress their plans to register products, is contributing to the steady expansion in the number of applications made and registrations granted under the scheme in the United Kingdom. Where companies have acquired successful experience of the scheme, they may wish to take up opportunities to submit applications to register products in other member states of the European Union.

There are no current plans for Health Ministers to meet with the food supplements industry. The FSA meets regularly with the food supplements industry to discuss issues relating to food supplements, including the work on setting maximum levels.

We have been advised by the FSA that member states were not consulted by the European Commission before the commencement of the Commission's impact assessment exercise in summer 2008. The FSA has met with the contractor appointed by the European Commission to carry out the work and provided details of United Kingdom stakeholders who could provide the data on the food supplements which are currently being marketed.

The FSA has not made an assessment of the options put forward in the European Commission's impact assessment exercise and their impact on specialist manufacturers and retailers and consumer choice. An assessment of the likely impact will be made when the specific levels being proposed by the European Commission are available. These will be set out in European Commission proposals, which are currently expected in January 2009, on which the FSA will consult fully.

In advance of the Commission publishing its proposals, an ad hoc technical working group comprising a small number of member states has been established which met for the first time on 15 October 2008. A further technical working group meeting has been suggested for late November 2008 and it is envisaged that the outputs of these meetings will then be reported back to all member states at a full working group meeting, a date for which is yet to be advised.

A meeting was held on 11 April 2008 between officials from the Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man Governments and those of the FSA, MHRA and Ministry of Justice. Officials representing the Government of Jersey indicated that a major update of food safety legislation was under way in Jersey and that both the Food Supplements Directive and the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation are to be implemented as part of this exercise. Discussions at official level regarding the implementation of the legislation in Guernsey are ongoing.

The MHRA has written to the Government of Jersey to begin discussions with them on the implementation of the Medicines Directive 2001/83/EC. During 2007 and 2008, the MHRA has had written discussions and a series of meetings with the Government of Guernsey over the implementation of the Medicines Directive. The MHRA believes that Guernsey's proposed medicines law will receive Royal Assent in the near future. The MHRA will continue to assist the Government of Guernsey in the development of the additional legislation required for implementation of the Medicines Directive.

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