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Rob tells us that the Advocate General is expected to provide a preliminary view on 5 April, but the final decision of the court won't be known until June.
The ANH believes that there has never been a more important time to keep the pressure up. Apart from the ban on vitamin and mineral forms, further bans on other nutrients like amino acids and phytonutrients are planned by the EU, as is the imposition of maximum dosages of nutrients in supplements that are likely to be well below those required for significant benefit. Perhaps worst of all is a blanket, EU-wide Regulation on Nutrition and Health Claims that, in its proposed form, amounts to nothing short of an infringement of freedom of speech. It's already been knocked out of the European Parliament once, in April 2004, but it's coming back for another round in 2005. The European Commission is very keen on it and says that it will protect consumers. The ANH is concerned that it could have precisely the reverse effect in important areas.
A key part of the EU's plans is to control such things as ingredients in food supplements and health claims by ensuring that commercial interests submit substantial amounts of data that are intended to prove safety. This appears reasonable as it's supposed to protect consumers. Under the total harmonisation systems proposed, now under challenge in the ANH's current case before the European Court, everything that is not specifically permitted is in fact banned. This is extremely fundamental as it means freedom becomes permissive rather than residual. It is a gargantuan 'turning of the tables' from the present state of law in countries like the UK. So, if a smaller company does not have the resources to submit the data, an ingredient, a product or a health claim gets banned, whether or not the ingredient has existed naturally in foods and has been consumed safely and with beneficial results for thousands of years. Nor does it matter whether the claim can be substantiated by good science. The irony is that the bigger companies that could afford to submit data simply are not interested, while the smaller companies that would dearly like to submit data to get their products through the new regulatory door, simply can't afford to do so.
The science being used to determine maximum doses is also irrational, says Rob. Risk assessment models used for inherently toxic substances such as pharmaceuticals and pesticides are being applied to essential nutrients. The precautionary principle that is applied to this "worst case scenario" approach ensures that ridiculously low levels are determined as "maximum levels" purportedly to ensure safety for all. The flaws in such models are huge and their implementation would deprive very large numbers of people of beneficial dosages of nutrients. The ANH has submitted a ground-breaking report, endorsed by leading doctors and clinical nutritionists around the world, to the FAO/WHO (United Nations) who are presently evaluating nutrient-risk assessment methods for Codex Alimentarius (world food guidelines). The resulting protocols will be used to establish maximum dosages, which will be implemented in due course across Europe via the Food Supplements Directive.
The ANH has just launched a new initiative called Adopt a Health Store. "We've been amazed to find how few people buying products in health stores are aware of the regulatory issues that are likely to affect availability of popular products in the very near future. By helping health stores to become information points for the campaign, for the distribution of flyers and relevant articles and information, people can be mobilised in all sorts of ways to help bring about change," says Rob. So how can you help? The ANH is appealing to anyone who values their continued supply of leading-edge natural health products to contact its Campaign Administrator, Isobel Bradley, by email email@example.com (or tel: 01252 371 275), so that they can 'adopt' a health store or two in their local areas. As the ANH is a not-for-profit, donation-funded organisation, with a very ambitious agenda for 2005, donations are urgently required. Donations can easily be made online via a secure server at www.alliance-natural-health.org or cheques may be sent direct to the ANH registered office, made out to "Alliance for Natural Health", and sent to ANH Campaign Fund, Mount Manor House, 16 The Mount, Guildford, Surrey GU2 4HS. Find out more about the ANH campaign and its work via the ANH website www.alliance-natural-health.org.