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Wednesday, 10 May, 2000, 19:08 GMT 20:08 UK
Clampdown on vitamin pill labelling
Vitamin labelling will soon be more detailed
Vitamin pills could be labelled with warnings that they are no substitute for a healthy diet, under EU proposals.

The proposals are designed to ensure that the consumer is protected from exaggerated claims and that they receive full and proper information about the supplements.

They will replace a patchwork of national laws which mean in some countries sales are restricted or consumers are given no information on the label.

If approved by EU health ministers, the new rules will mean compulsory detailed information for vitamin pill users.

Labels on bottles will have to include:

  • a recommendation for a daily dose
  • a clear warning about the possible health risks of exceeding the limit
  • a statement that the pills should not be used as a substitute for a varied diet
Claims that the product can prevent, treat or cure illness will be banned.

Labels on these products must give consumers adequate and clear information about how to use and how not to use them

David Byrne, EU Food Health Commissioner

Pills sold in packaging which resembles that of pharmaceutical products must carry the statement: "This is not a medicinal product."

The UK government, which has already set up its own national group of experts studying vitamins and minerals, welcomed the idea.

A spokesman said: "This is good news for consumers, because it improves the level of available information.

"This will fill a gap in EU food safety rules, and it is something we have always welcomed as long as it is done on a Community-wide basis."

At present, there is no obligation on British manufacturers of vitamin and mineral pills to put dietary information on packaging, although many do.

The European Commission argues that with an increase in the use of such pills and capsules to supplement diets across Europe, it is time for EU-wide legislation to ensure informed consumer choice and safety.

EU Food Health Commissioner David Byrne said: "We must be clear that a varied diet remains the best solution for a healthy development and life.

"These food supplements mainly serve to compensate for inadequate intake of essential nutrients by certain people or specific population groups, or, for some, to increase their intake of such nutrients.

"Labels on these products must give consumers adequate and clear information about how to use and how not to use them.

"For those who find they require supplements we must make sure that the chemical substances used to produce vitamins and mineral supplements are safe and subject to independent scientific assessment."

EU officials hope the new plan can be operating by the end of May 2002, as part of a package of new food safety measures unveiled earlier this year.

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