EU curbs on herbal remedies to be challenged in court.
CAMPAIGNERS fighting EU rulings banning popular vitamins and herbal supplements are due to face the British Government in court. Consumers for Health Choice yesterday announced its intention to challenge the legality of the proposals in the European Court of Human Rights. More than a million people, who feel their wishes are being ignored and their freedom of choice taken away by the EU directives banning vitamins and mineral supplements, have already signed petitions.
Actress Jenny Seagrove, a member of the Save-Our-Supplements campaign, described the EU proposals as ``ruinous'' and said they will ``remove the public's right to take responsibility for their own health, simply because the vitamins, minerals and herbal supplements they need will be banned''.
Two EU directives, one regulating vitamins and minerals - the Food Supplements Directive which becomes UK law by July 2003 - and another, the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive, regulating herbal remedies, are expected to remove hundreds of natural health products from the shelves of UK stores. Many popular supplements, including higher-dose vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, and many European, American, Chinese and Ayurvedic herbs such as Rhodiola (used to treat stress), Boswellia (arthritic pain), Ashwaganda (inflammation and infection) could be affected.
Ms Seagrove said, ``It is our fundamental right to take care of ourselves. We should be allowed to keep ourselves well in any way we choose - I choose to use herbs and supplements and so do millions of others.
``It is in everyone's interest, including the Government's, for as many people as possible to keep themselves out of doctors' surgeries, and out of hospitals - why does the Government not understand that?''
The Food Supplements Directive contains a list of nutrients and nutrient sources for use in dietary supplements. At present more than 300 nutrients and nutrient sources, affecting thousands of products that have been on the UK market for decades, are not on the permitted list, and unless comprehensive safety dossiers are submitted and approved for each, they will be banned, Consumers for Health Choice said.
To date, fewer than 15 dossiers have been prepared.
The directive will also set the maximum daily dose levels allowed, but because of political pressure from Germany and France it is expected that these levels will be substantially lower than those currently recommended in UK.
Consumers for Health Choice believe people who use these soon-to-be outlawed supplements will be forced to seek alternative sources, most likely from unregulated markets such as the internet or overseas mail order, which could actually put them at greater risk.
The organisation believes the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive will have an equally devastating effect on the availability of herbal products currently on the UK market.
The directive states that herbal products can only continue to be sold if it they have already been on the market for 30 years - 15 years of which must have been in Europe.
Alternatively they must be licensed in the same way as pharmaceutical drugs, but at prohibitive costs of millions of pounds which herbal companies cannot afford.