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Brussels, 13 March 2002

Safety of food supplements Byrne welcomes agreement between European Parliament and Council

Commissioner David Byrne today welcomed the European Parliament's position on the proposed Directive on Food Supplements. The European Parliament today voted in favour of the legislative text adopted by the Council of Ministers as its Common Position, thus clearing the way for the final adoption of the new EU-wide rules. They will harmonise the substantially diverging national rules on the sale of food supplements in the form of pills and capsules, introducing common safety rules for food supplements that contain vitamins and minerals. Labels will have to give consumers detailed information on vitamin and mineral content and on daily use, including a warning about exceeding the intake as set out in the manufacturer's instructions.

"I am very pleased with the outcome of today's vote", David Byrne, the Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, said. "The aim of this legislation is to put consumer safety and informed consumer choice first, and to solve the problems manufacturers currently face in marketing their products due to diverging national rules. Thus consumers across Europe will have a wide range of safe products available from which to choose, which is not the case in quite a few member states today. The aim of the Directive is not to ban food supplements as some lobbies have misled consumers to believe. Some people find they need food supplements to compensate for their inadequate intake of essential vitamins and minerals. Labels must give them clear information about how to use and how not to use them. We also must make sure that the chemical substances used to produce vitamins and mineral supplements are safe and subject to independent scientific assessment. These principles of food safety and transparent information as outlined in the White Paper on Food Safety apply here as they do to all other food products. It must however be clear that a varied diet remains the best approach to achieving good health."

The Commission presented its proposal for this Directive in May 2000 in response to an increase in the use of products in the form of pills and capsules to supplement the normal diet and to varying national rules on and attitudes to the proliferation of these products. The objective of the proposal is two-fold. First, to set out a general framework and safety rules for food supplements. As a first step detailed rules on vitamins and minerals are laid down. They requires that maximum limits for vitamins and minerals intake will be set based on scientific risk assessment and data on vitamin and minerals intake from other foods, while also taking due account of what is considered an adequate vitamin and mineral intake for an average person.The Commission will within the next five years come forward with a report and appropriate measures on other types of ingredients used in food supplements.

The second objective is to give the consumer detailed information on the label to ensure consumers can make an informed choice. Under the text as agreed today labels on, for example, bottles of vitamin pills will have to include clear instructions for daily dosage, a warning about possible health risk in case of excess use, and a statement that the pills should not be used as a substitute for a varied diet. Claims that the product can prevent, treat or cure illness are prohibited.

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