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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 July, 2005, 10:18 GMT 11:18 UK
Do you agree with European vitamin ruling?
Woman taking tablets
Do you agree with the European Court's ruling on vitamins and minerals?

The European Court has said that rules on the sale of vitamins and minerals should be tightened.

The move will see around 200 supplements banned from sale and restrictions introduced on the upper limits of vitamin doses.

Critics say the rules are too restrictive and threaten thousands of perfectly safe products.

Do you agree with the European Court's decision? Should we be more cautious in the use of vitamins? Or can they form an important supplement to our diet?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

Sensible restrictions are required
Dr. E. Saunders, UK
Yes, I agree with the EU decision - some vitamins currently on sale are toxic if used in high quantities. Some Chinese herbs are also dangerous for people who have medical conditions. Sensible restrictions are required.
Dr. E. Saunders, UK

Having Romany roots, supplements I can't buy I'll mostly be able to make, but if those without the necessary knowledge try this, the outcome could be considerably worse than taking what they can now buy.
Jan Scanes, England

It doesn't matter whether taking these vitamins could potentially damage your health. For most of these vitamins and supplements there is no conclusive evidence either way. We should have the freedom to take whatever we choose to.
Chris, UK

If people ate a sensible diet with plenty of vegetables and fruit etc there would be no need for vitamins.
Yvonne, Liverpool, UK

No - I believe the food supplements ruling is less about consumer safety and more about commercialisation and harmonisation
Stephen Rawson

I object to a European Court dictating what I can and can't buy unless there is a proven health risk and even then, I can make up my own mind. Why not ban the known harmful substances like alcohol and tobacco? Is this perchance brought about by pharmaceutical companies scared of dipping profits?
Mrs P, England

I have suffered adverse reactions from high dose supplements and welcome plans to outlaw potentially harmful pills. Why should these supplements be sold on unfounded claims when all other medicines have to be scientifically proven safe and effective?
Mark B, Dorset, UK

I have a degenerative nerve condition and NEED high doses of Vitamin B to prevent the condition getting worse. It is already very difficult to get my vitamins; this will make it impossible. It has been proved scientifically that in certain conditions, much larger doses of vitamin B really do help. It's not a silly luxury for me, but a necessity.
Terri Stirling, France

At last someone is trying to protect consumers from this exploitation
Ross, London, UK
There is absolutely no evidence for the benefits of vitamin supplementation in the general population. Other more specific claims, such as Echinacea for colds and glucosamine for joint problems do not stand up to robust scientific testing. It is noteworthy that the loudest defendants of vitamin supplements are those making vast sums of money from selling them. At last someone is trying to protect consumers from this exploitation.
Ross, London, UK

Young children, elderly and the very sick cannot eat high quantities of food and taking supplements is the answer. The EU want to cut down on malnutrition and they are going down the wrong path for it.
Helen, Wakefield

This is an appalling decision! Today's crops are deficient in many of the minerals and vitamins that we need for optimum health, and this is before we cook them to oblivion, and coat them in toxic additives. The RDA is designed to give us only the minimum nutrition, based on an average bad diet, to avoid showing obvious health defects.
Dr Anne Taylor, Scotland

As a Nutritional Therapist, I have had many of the tools of my trade taken away from me. It seems that this ban is led by the pharmaceutical companies whose patents are soon to run out and who are afraid that natural medicine can be as effective as their own products but with many fewer side effects.
Hilda Breakspear, UK

It might be helpful to remember this legislation is not an outright ban on health supplements, just a regulation on the companies that are allowed to sell them. Surely some regulation is a good thing?
Luke, Kent, England

Eat a healthy varied diet, and on the whole there is no need for vitamin supplements
Ann, UK
These vitamin manufacturers, particularly the ones supplying the high doses, are merely pandering to people's foolish self-obsessions. Eat a healthy varied diet, and on the whole there is no need for vitamin supplements. It's just another symptom of people's lack of direction as a consequence of the general decline in stronger religious beliefs. People are turning inward trying to find whatever is missing in their lives, and coupled with unprecedented disposable income, can think of nothing better to spend it on than themselves. And if the choice is between healthy organic food which they have to make into a meal, or a quick fix from a plastic tub, the latter, being much more convenient and more instantly gratifying will be chosen.
Ann, UK

This is a situation where the court should issue general guidelines and let people decide for themselves. Items which are genuinely harmful may be banned - if studies prove this. Perhaps the most important thing that should be done is to provide people with correct information about vitamins and supplements - some of these provide little or no benefit and some can only be absorbed in minute quantities - so taking large doses of doesn't do much. Put the information out there for people to see and let them decide.
Dave Woods, Cleveland/USA

Why stop at vitamins, it's about time the whole "alternative medicine" industry was regulated. It's about time they were subjected to rigorous clinical trials like normal drugs are; rather than just having people say "it cured me", when they'd have got better without. When some "therapies" contravene the laws of physics, you wonder why the manufacturers aren't prosecuted for fraud.
Nick Holway, Guildford, UK

So much "outrage" and "how ludicrous" - get a grip. People abuse these things and end up in hospital. Why is it outrageous or ludicrous to control them? If they were using sensibly in the first place that wouldn't happen would it? Just because it's a supplement and it's been used for years doesn't mean it's safe. They are helpful when used correctly but as it is they are too uncontrolled.
Matt, Blackpool, UK

The potency of some vitamins is to be reduced. I currently take 3000mg Vitamin C per day under a doctor's supervision, I will still be able to take that amount by taking more tablets but the cost will go up. You can be certain that even though the potency of each tablet goes down the cost will not.
Lynne Worthington, England

As someone who has supported the idea of the EU for the last 30 years, I feel this is a big own goal by the EU for very little gain. It will be used again and again by those among us who want total or partial withdrawal of Britain from the EU.
Simon Millett, UK

I think this is an outrageous restriction of personal liberties. Vitamin and mineral supplements will be controlled and yet I can smoke, drink and binge-eat junk food packed with additives until I end up in hospital - how is this logical in any shape or form? Warnings should be written on labels where appropriate and the decision simply left to the consumer. This is a particular blow for people with chronic illnesses which are given the brush-off by conventional medicine (eg chronic fatigue syndrome) but in many cases greatly alleviated by nutrient supplementation, whilst doctors simply push them onto anti-depressants (loaded with side-effects) and send them home. I'm sickened.
CMS, UK

It's really not very complicated - encourage people to have healthy, balanced diets in the first place, and then no one will need supplements! The authorities need to be careful not to be seen to be restricting individual liberties here, and banning supplements is a short-term measure - some people need them. With a long-term solution to gradually eradicate processed food through food education programmes (for kids AND adults), supplements will eventually be redundant.
Dean Gargano, London

This is a bizarre, useless ruling. They haven't banned cigarettes or cream cakes, although it is well proven that smoking and high-fat diets are real risks to the public's health.
Graham, UK

Quality and purity can vary greatly between products so standards should be set
Tom P, Anguilla
There needs to be some control on some of the products because some supplements have been found to be actually detrimental to one's health. Quality and purity can vary greatly between products so standards should be set. But setting standards and stringent controls are two different matters. The European Court needs to set its priorities better.
Tom P, Anguilla

Vitamin doses are an individual thing; yes if you are the average couch potato then you probably only need the min RDAs, but if you are heavily into any form of sporting activity then you tend to need more than the RDA. So my message to the couch potatoes in Brussels would be to leave well alone and concentrate on removing the additives from our everyday food.
Jim Roxburgh, UK

Yes, about time too. I run a health food shop. Unlike most health food shops, we only stock a limited range because we like to encourage customers to get their vitamins from food rather than waste money on synthetic products.
Michael, England

There has been a problem in the past with vitamins containing wildly varying dosages per tablet, and others have contained unlisted ingredients that consumers actually try to avoid. If the vitamin supplement makers were more ethical in their practice, then the issue wouldn't have come about.
Marc Lachance, Germany

This ruling will make it impossible for me to get supplements that I depend upon. I have ME and the supplements I take make the difference between being bed-bound and being a productive member of society. This is a clear infringement of my human rights.
Richard Vialls, UK

I'd rather they outlawed cigarettes than vitamins
Peter, Scotland
I'd rather they outlawed cigarettes than vitamins and supplements. Knowing you can still buy a product which will likely kill you and affect your general health makes the new ruling absurd.
Peter, Scotland

I do not agree with the ruling. By doing this many more people, including myself, with illnesses such as ME will become even more ill as supplements which are essential for us to have a vaguely normal life, such as MSM, are taken off the shelves. The NHS is doing nothing to help many patients who are reliant on these. Many of us need high doses to become well and so will just have to take more low dose ones and then end up spending more money.
Dawn Wood, England

People say we should eat fruit and veg instead of taking supplements. I take glucosamine and chondroitin for my joints - fruit and veg can't help there. If the supplements are withdrawn I will have to turn to my GP and end up costing the NHS more money.
Felicity, UK

The government is concerned about obesity and health issues connected with consumption of fast foods and convenience foods. Surely vitamin supplementation is part of ensuring good health and preventing diet related health problems.
Claire Smedley, UK

I have to pay for my supplements myself, it should be my choice
James Gold, UK
This ruling makes me very angry. My use of vitamin supplements to improve my health came about because 'normal' allopathic medicine failed to treat my illness. My doctors agree with me that I have controlled my illness, with supplements, where they could not. I have to pay for my supplements myself, it should be my choice.
James Gold, UK

Guidelines yes, restrictions no. There should be certifications of quality, however.
David S, USA

I used to get colds at least five times per year. Then I started taking Echinacea and since have only had one cold in three years. I understand that Echinacea is one of the remedies that will be banned. How dare Brussels dictate to me like this and ruin my quality of life in the process!
M Thompson, Bradford, England

I can only welcome the decision. I know so many people who simply ignore the guidelines and take as much as they like. Even vitamin C could lead to serious illness. It is very important to keep vitamin taking in proportion.
Mary McCannon, Budapest, Hungary

What most people don't realise is that a lot of these supplements, such as St John's Wort, interact with prescription medicines causing problems for those taking them. If someone sold you two medicines that interacted to make you ill, you'd be rightly concerned, so why not this?
Simon, England

It should be left up to us to decide whether or not to take them
Gerard, UK
Why should they dictate what I can and can't have when it comes to these supplements. I take vitamins now but I don't overdose on them. I can clearly see a difference when I don't take some for a certain period of time. It should be left up to us to decide whether or not to take them and not for others to try and control us.
Gerard, UK

This is a clear waste of time. Why all this fuss over harmful vitamins? There are far more important issues in the medicine world the European Court could focus on! Aren't vitamins and minerals healthy? Why restrict usage of something that benefits peoples' health? Ridiculous!
Craig Yon, Swindon

Our local "health" shop stocks products that read like the periodic table of elements. It's far better to eat a healthy diet than to rely on supplements; then there is no need to take doses of selenium, chromium, zinc etc.
Peter CS, UK

I'm really upset about this ruling and have spent the morning trying to find what's on the list and what's off. My husband and I spent years with unexplained infertility, then got pregnant within 3 months of starting a regime of special vitamin supplements. We have a very healthy, balanced diet, no processed foods, but it's well reported that modern agriculture and storage methods destroy most of the nutritional value in food. We'd like to have another baby in the future, and I will go to any lengths to obtain the vitamins I need to achieve this.
Adrienne, UK

We should be more cautious in the use of vitamins and minerals but banning so many supplements isn't necessary. People should be allowed to decide for themselves whether to take supplements. More information should be given on labels. Some people dislike many of the foods providing essential vitamins and minerals, or are allergic to them, and deficiencies have to be made up somehow. Our health education programmes should include vitamin and supplement safety as well as healthy eating advice.
I Guthrie, UK

I think when someone decides to take vitamin supplements, his/her decision stems from responsible reasoning and should be encouraged, not suppressed. Only in rare cases vitamins may harm people, while on the other hand their importance for human health is well understood and accepted.
Jiri Cejka, Czech republic

No I do not agree with the European Courts rulings. I use homeopathic remedies and have done for many years, my son also used homeopathic remedies after conventional remedies could not assist with control of his asthma. If the ruling related to rogue traders I would support it but it could jeopardise the supply of many remedies that we take for granted now. I would welcome statistics into how many people have died from natural remedies compared to how many have died from conventional prescription drugs. Having been prescribed Ibuprofen when my records showed I was allergic to aspirin since childhood - I almost died!
Vivienne Brooks, Winchester, Hampshire

f the market can't regulate and educate the public, it is then the social responsibility of the government
Asrul A Shafie, Cardiff
Definitely agree. It is a health professional's responsibility to educate the public that vitamins are supplements and not a staple food. I know someone who takes 10-15 different vitamins and herbs twice daily just because she does not clearly understand the meaning of 'daily requirement'. If the market can't regulate and educate the public, it is then the social responsibility of the government.
Asrul A Shafie, Cardiff, UK

This is a misguided ruling. All it proves is there's an active 'nanny state' growing throughout Europe.
Pat Dobson, England

Ah - another EU ruling; they love to rule, prohibit, control, monitor and stop everything, don't they? Yes, taking too much vitamin A can be dangerous, but so can eating too many bananas, or drinking too much water!
Andy, Manchester, England

I guess somebody in Brussels is having trouble justifying their enormous budget! It's obviously nonsense; common table salt can be just as harmful if taken to excess.
Ed, Scotland

What happened to people being able to think and take responsibility for themselves?
Jane, England
We'll be issued with daily menus next of what we are allowed to eat each day. What happened to people being able to think and take responsibility for themselves? Our people died face-to-face for freedom - the faceless take it away.
Jane, England

I had a young female member of staff who used to work previously for a health food shop. She was healthy, ate a reasonably healthy diet and was of average weight. She also took 18 supplements per day as she had literally been brainwashed by working in the shop that everybody needed to fill themselves with pills to make themselves healthy. She also had the worst sickness record, mainly coughs, cold, the usual things, so the supplements did not seem to be working. Until the industry has proof of the efficacy of their products they should be heavily regulated.
Tim, Birmingham, UK

When we will see a list of the 200 supplements that will be removed? I feel this is an unfair decision. I've been taking supplements for many years and feel it benefits me greatly healthwise, surely it should be my choice to continue to be able to do to that, not the European Court's.
Julia Dryburgh, Scotland

Allow people to exercise their own brain cells
Ken, England, UK
Issue guidelines and allow people to exercise their own brain cells. If the European Court has nothing better to do, there is clearly an opportunity for substantive economies to be made in the bureaucracy.
Ken, England, UK

It's getting to the point where we'll only be able to obtain bananas with a doctor's prescription. The only rules that need tightening are those controlling the European Court's freedom to introduce ludicrous laws.
Chris B, England

I think the rules are well-intentioned but the priorities are wrong. Vitamin buyers are after all making a conscious choice, whereas much of the food in our supermarkets contains unnecessary, undesirable chemicals, such as hydrogenated vegetable oil and artificial sweeteners. I'd prefer the EU to tighten the regulations on those first.
Simon, UK

As someone who prefers natural remedies to orthodox methods, I think this is a terrible decision. Today's pace of life makes healthy eating a much more difficult option for many people and supplements are required to keep them healthy. Removing these vitamins will not force people to change their lifestyles and diets, it will only put more pressure on the NHS as they become poorly and flock to see their GPs.
Donna Chisholm, Staffs, UK

I am outraged that the European Court thinks it has the right to stop me buying the vitamin supplements I want from my local health food shop. What business is it of theirs what vitamins and minerals I take? Why do we have to have all this useless legislation handed down to us from Europe that always seems to hinder freedoms our parents took for granted? Common sense would suggest that if they are that concerned about vitamins, then they should ban outright the consumption of alcohol and smoking of cigarettes, both proven to cause millions of more deaths than swallowing vitamins.
Adrian Gilbert, England

Yes. Most people see these supplements as perfectly safe alternatives to pharmaceutical products. However, they are not completely free of side-effects or problems and therefore need these controls.
Chris, Manchester, UK

Who needs a 100% supplement of every vitamin anyway? Most of that excess vitamins and minerals get flushed out of your system anyway.
Erik, UK

Fruit and vegetables are surely better
Tom, Ipswich, UK
Fresh fruit and vegetables are surely better than any vitamin supplement - and cheaper too sometimes. It's hard to overdose on natural products.
Tom, Ipswich, UK

Time for the UK to do what all other European nations do, ignore any legislation we don't like. This would be a good place to start.
Chris, UK

Just another example of how the European Union want to control our lives in their nanny state. Every single day another freedom of this country is being eroded by ridiculous laws emanating from the Eurocrats in Brussels.
David Stansfield, Crewkerne, England

The so-called 'critics' are all sellers of supplements, so of course they oppose this measure. The fact is that over-doing vitamins can be as dangerous as under-doing them. This is just putting in place safe limits. Many consumer groups support this, including Which?
Katherine, London, UK

Whether it's your local council, the House of Commons or the European Court, Nanny knows best.
David Anderson, Wakefield, West Yorkshire

At least the ruling is based on some semblance of protecting the public. I understood that this whole business originated with large pharmaceutical companies wanting the whole thing tightly regulated and licensed. The cynical might say that this was basically a plot for them to wrest control of the market away from the smaller players.
Robbie, UK

Everyone is familiar with the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamins. What a lot of people fail to recognise is that just because they are good in small quantities does not mean that you should take as much as you like. What may be beneficial is if scientists also published a recommended daily limit, above which the possible risks outweigh the benefits.
Nigel, Leeds, UK




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