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Food Supplements

Volume 448: debated on Tuesday 4 July 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) how many dossiers have been received by the Food Standards Agency from manufacturers seeking to gain derogation until 2009 from the provisions of the food supplements directive; in how many cases such derogations were (a) given and (b) not given; for which substances derogation has not been given; and for what reasons derogation was denied in each case; (77047)

(2) when officials of which other European Union member states officials of the Food Standards Agency have recently met to discuss the interpretation and implementation of the food supplements directive; on what date such meetings were held; and what the outcome was of the discussions;

(3) when officials of (a) her Department and (b) the Food Standards Agency last met the Better Regulation Task Force to discuss the economic impact of the food supplements directive; what actions were agreed at that meeting; and if she will make a statement;

(4) whether officials of her Department have produced an analysis of the scientific papers upon which the German Government based their negotiating position when the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health recently considered the proposal to add boron to the list of nutrients permitted for use under the food supplements directive and the directive on foods for particular nutritional purposes; what steps she intends to take prior to the next discussions on this issue by the Standing Committee; and if she will make a statement;

(5) whether officials of (a) her Department and (b) the Food Standards Agency have obtained a copy of the report on the safety of vitamins and minerals on which the German Government are basing their negotiating position in relation to the food supplements directive; whether the Government will produce a response to that document; and if she will make a statement;

(6) what strategy she has adopted to achieve her objectives for the interpretation and implementation of the food supplements directive; what progress she has made to date in implementing that strategy; what progress she has made in persuading other member states to agree to the United Kingdom’s objectives for the implementation of that legislation; and if she will make a statement;

(7) what further steps she intends to take to ensure that right hon. and hon. Members are fully informed about progress towards the achievement of her objectives for the interpretation and implementation of the food supplements directive;

(8) with Ministers of which other European Union member states Ministers of her Department have recently met to discuss the interpretation and implementation of the Food Supplements Directive; on what date such meetings were held; and what the outcome was of the discussions.

Dossiers for 421 substances were accepted by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) from manufacturers seeking to gain derogation for the substances to remain on the United Kingdom (UK) market. Of these, 46 dossiers were submitted after 12 July 2005 and the FSA had been given to understand that receipt of these dossiers was acceptable, and had advised that the substances covered by these could continue to be used in supplements. The European Commission (EC) has subsequently advised that the substances cannot benefit from the derogation. The FSA is carrying out inquiries of the relevant companies to obtain accurate details of the substances concerned. The 375 dossiers submitted before the deadline are awaiting an opinion from the European Food Safety Authority, and a decision by the standing committee on the food chain and animal health.

Meetings were held with the Netherlands (7 March), Germany (20 March), Finland (31 March), Ireland (6 April), Italy (20 April) and France (24 April). The meetings were used to present the outcome of preliminary discussions in the absence of EC proposals by the FSA board on setting maximum levels of vitamins and minerals in food supplements, and the UK market for food supplements. Member states were receptive to the ideas presented by the FSA but had not developed their own definitive positions in the absence of proposals from the EC.

FSA officials discussed what work might be undertaken to provide information on the economic impact of the food supplements directive with respect to setting maximum levels of vitamins and minerals with the better regulation executive on 2 June 2006. It was agreed that this should be discussed further after the EC has published its discussion documents on this issue.

FSA officials have considered the papers provided by the German Government on the safety of boron. FSA officials have discussed with the EC the fact that the issue under consideration is the addition of substances to the annexes in the food supplements directive and, not at this stage, to agree maximum levels for individual vitamins and minerals. The FSA is considering this and the EC is awaiting its advice before there is a further discussion at the EC standing committee.

The FSA has received a copy of the report published by the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment in Germany, which outlines recommended levels for certain vitamins and minerals. A response to the report is not planned. No proposals on setting levels have been published by the EC to date, and member states have yet to indicate their negotiating positions.

The outcome of preliminary discussions by the FSA board on setting maximum levels of vitamins and minerals in food supplements, in the absence of EC proposals, has formed the basis of discussions with member states on this issue. The UK strategy has been to encourage discussion with other key member states and to engage in discussions on this subject at this early stage, prior to papers being published by the EC. This strategy has been developed to implement the objectives of Health Ministers. A number of meetings have been held with member states.

Right hon. and hon. Members will be updated on the food supplements directive via ministerial correspondence and replies to parliamentary questions.

No meetings have been held with Ministers from other European Union member states on the food supplements directive. A letter has been sent to all Ministers advising them of the preliminary discussions by the FSA board in September 2005 on setting maximum levels of vitamins and minerals in food supplements.