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Dietary Supplements

Volume 301: debated on Thursday 27 November 1997

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To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the consideration of dietary supplements by (a) the Codex Alimentarius Committee, (b) the European Commission, and (c) the Committee on Toxicity, indicating his Department's policy in respect of each body. [18124]

The Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses is in the process of drawing up guidelines on supplements containing vitamins and minerals. The current draft, which addresses a number of issues, including the setting of maximum vitamin and mineral content of supplements, is due to be discussed again in September 1998. Codex standards and guidelines are advisory and it is for individual Governments to decide what use, if any, they wish to make of them.In June of this year, the EU Commission issued a discussion document on the possible harmonisation of national controls on vitamin and mineral supplements and foods with added vitamins and minerals. This reviewed the current situation and presented for consideration various issues relating to the control of these products, including the question of the need for establishing maximum limits on their vitamin and mineral content. It made no proposals for action on this or on any of the other issues covered. Nor did it commit the Commission to bringing forward proposals for legislation. A copy of the UK's response has been deposited in the Library.The Committee on Toxicity of Chemical in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) have not considered dietary supplements as a class of products but have provided advice on the safety of supplements containing vitamin B6. After reviewing the data from scientific literature, the COT advised that the level of vitamin B6 in dietary supplements sold under food law should be limited to a maximum of 10 mg per daily dose. The Government has accepted this recommendation. A copy of the statement issued by the COT is already available in the Library.In each case, the products being considered are those sold as foods: products classified as medicines are not affected.

The Government's main concern is to ensure the safety of dietary supplements sold under food law. In the case of the Codex guidelines and the EU discussion document, we have argued that any controls should be based on safety considerations. The proposed controls on supplements containing vitamin B6 are wholly consistent with this policy.