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Food Supplements Directive: European Court of Justice rules in favour of the Commission

European Commission - IP/05/916   12/07/2005

Other available languages: FR DE EL

IP/05/916

Brussels, 12 July 2005

Food Supplements Directive: European Court of Justice rules in favour of the Commission

Today the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in favour of the European Commission, upholding the validity of the Food Supplements Directive, its legal base and the positive list system. The European Commission will now study the details of the Court’s judgement and in view of the Court’s comments on the procedure, the Commission will look at ways to ensure that the Directive is implemented in a manner that is transparent, timely and the least restrictive that science allows. The aim is to minimise restrictions on businesses while maintaining a high level of protection of public health based on science.

Markos Kyprianou, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, said: “I welcome the fact that the European Court of Justice has upheld the validity of the Food Supplements Directive, its legal base and the positive list system. The Commission will now study the Court’s judgement in detail, and takes note of the Court’s conclusions on the need for a transparent and timely implementation procedure. This is a Directive designed to open the internal market and boost growth, while ensuring a high level of protection of public health. With these dual goals in mind, we will look at the implementation of the Directive to ensure that it is implemented in a transparent and timely manner and is the least restrictive that science will allow.

In its judgement today, the Court:

  • Concluded that the Directive was correctly based on Article 95 (internal market) of the Treaty;
  • Pointed out that certain restrictions can be justified by the protection of public health, and considered the measures in question to be necessary and appropriate for this purpose;
  • Upheld the system of a positive list of vitamins and minerals and their sources.

The Commission takes note of the Court’s conclusion that the Commission should ensure generally that the consultation stage with the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is carried out transparently and within a reasonable time. The Commission has already adopted a series of implementing measures on the procedures to be applied by EFSA to requests for scientific opinions, and the Commission will, in consultation with EFSA, examine whether these need to be further supplemented or reinforced.

Background

The Directive on food supplements (2002/46/EC) was adopted in June 2002. It establishes a positive list of vitamins and minerals approved for use in food supplements as well as rules on labelling to better inform consumers. The main aim of the Directive is to enable food supplements to be marketed freely across the EU while ensuring the safety of consumers. Harmonisation at EU level opens up new markets for products which might previously have encountered difficulties due to differences in national legislation or to the fact that some Member States would use public health grounds to block products from other countries. The majority of stakeholders from consumer associations and industry supported the legislation. However, a group of consumers and retailer associations in the UK challenged the validity of the transposition of the Directive into UK law, and the UK court subsequently referred the case to the ECJ, questioning the validity of the Directive. The ECJ today ruled in favour of the Commission.


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