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Dietary Supplements: EU Law

Volume 464: debated on Tuesday 9 October 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) when Ministers of his Department expect next to meet representatives of Consumers for Health to discuss the implementation of the food supplements directive; (156224)

(2) if he will make a statement on the outcome of the Working Group meeting of EU member states held on 24 September to discuss the setting of maximum permitted levels for nutrients in food supplements and fortified foods;

(3) whether officials of (a) his Department and (b) the Food Standards Agency have made representations to the European Commission on the extent of the circulation of the Commission's recent orientation paper on the setting of nutrient levels for food supplements and fortified foods; and if he will make it his policy to encourage the Commission to improve the openness and transparency of its activity on the implementation of the food supplements directive;

(4) if he will make a statement on the anticipated timetable for the setting of maximum permitted levels for nutrients in food supplements;

(5) what legal principles informed the contribution of the Food Standards Agency to discussions with the European Commission on the setting of maximum permitted levels for vitamins and minerals in food supplements; and if he will make a statement;

(6) what recent contacts there have been between officials of the Food Standards Agency and their counterparts in (a) the Republic of Ireland and (b) other European member states to discuss the setting of maximum permitted levels for nutrients in food supplements; and if he will make a statement.

The meeting of the Working Group on 24 September was to obtain member states' initial views on an orientation paper on setting maximum and minimum levels for vitamins and minerals in foodstuffs, issued by the Commission in late July. We have been advised by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) that general discussions on the orientation paper in the working group revealed that many member states are yet to establish views on many issues. The Commission has asked member states to consider the various issues presented in the orientation paper in preparation for more detailed discussions at the next working group meeting which has provisionally been scheduled for November.

FSA officials have raised the issue of circulation of the orientation paper with the European Commission. The Commission recognised that member states have obligations to consult their stakeholders and did not place restrictions on the circulation of the paper, leaving this to the discretion of the member states. The FSA sent the paper to United Kingdom stakeholders on 8 August seeking their initial comments and held a meeting on 14 September during which the paper was discussed in detail. Further meetings between the FSA and Ministers will be arranged when necessary.

The European Commission has indicated its intention to produce proposals in the form of draft amending legislation to go forward to the Standing Committee on Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) for consideration in early 2009.

Recent discussions between FSA officials and the European Commission focussed on the Commission's orientation paper, and have not extended to detailed discussions of legal principles. The legal basis for setting levels of vitamins and minerals in foodstuffs that informs the FSA's contribution to discussions with the Commission is outlined in the Food Supplements Directive 2002/46/EC and the Regulation on the addition of vitamins and minerals and of certain other substances to foods EC No 1925/2006.

FSA officials met with their counterparts from the Republic of Ireland and other member states during, and in the margins of, the European Commission's working group meeting with member states on 24 September, on the setting of maximum permitted levels of vitamins and minerals in food supplements.