Letter to John Bowis of the EU Parliament regarding the EU directive on food supplements from David Cooper

John Bowis MEP,
The European Parliament,
60 rue Wiertz,
B-0147 Brussels,


Dear John,

I hope you will give serious consideration to an issue with which I know you are closely involved within the legislative process of the European Parliament qua British representative on the European Health Committee. It is an issue which gives myself, my family, and many of my friends very great anxiety. I have already written to my MP, Dari Taylor, and a number of other members of the European Parliament expressing our grave concerns about several pieces of legislation which are currently being passed through the Parliament: the Food Supplements Directive, the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive, and last, but by no means least, amendments to the Medicines Directive. I believe that all these elements of legislation will severely, and very unnecessarily, impinge upon the personal freedoms and choices of every individual within the United Kingdom by drastically restricting our access to many of the vitamin, mineral, and food supplements in the form in which we are presently able to purchase them in the UK. The first two pieces of legislation are clearly unnecessary in the UK since our law already requires that food supplements and natural remedies need to be as safe as food and as such are appropriately labelled. The third piece of legislation is perhaps the most worrying since it intends to change the wording of the Medicines Directive in such a way that, whether by intent or not, many food supplements, inter alia, could legally be reclassified as medicinal products. Food supplements on prescription? Has the world [sorry EU] gone bonkers?

I, along with many other citizens, am a great believer in the power of vitamins, and other food supplements, to enhance my health, and therefore my quality of life, and also in the power of individuals to have freedoms to make informed choices—
especially where those freedoms affect their health. I am, therefore, appalled that this particular freedom of choice is about to be taken away from myself and other
individuals within the UK through the passing of cumulative European legislation which severely restricts the sale of ‘higher’ dosages of vitamins, minerals and food supplements to individuals within the member countries of the European Union, and which may eventually lead to many completely harmless [but health enhancing] food supplements being categorized as ‘medicinal’ products. I have many serious concerns about such legislation and the issues surrounding it, some of which I will outline as concisely as I can in the following paragraphs.

First, the legislation appears to have been introduced with very little open dialogue and very little information relayed to the consumers of such products i.e. us, the ordinary citizens of the UK and EU. I only discovered the existence of the proposed legislation through a small article in one of the UK national daily newspapers. It is small wonder that the idea of democracy within the EU and UK is looked upon with such great cynicism by the voters within these political bodies when such legislation can be passed with apparent arrogant disregard for their personal choices and freedoms. Furthermore, I am absolutely certain if more of your constituents and those of other MEPs where aware of this legislation you, and they, would be receiving many more such representations as mine. I think we may assume that many fair minded citizens of the UK and EU will see this legislation as being another [more bizarre] case of the meddling in, and restriction of, personal freedoms — without any legitimate moral or empirical cause; legislation which is made under the aegis of some twisted form of unnecessary, bureaucratic, and heavy handed ‘harmonization’.
Second, and most importantly, in whose interest is this raft of legislation being enacted? I cannot possibly conceive that the legislation is in the interest of the consumers of these products. More and more, a plethora of long term studies are concluding that the consumption of higher levels of various vitamin and mineral supplements, at many times the RDA [recommended daily allowance], can have very beneficial effects in preventing many types of diseases, and as antioxidants, enabling people to live healthier and longer lives; I’ve never heard of anyone dying from an overdose of vitamin C. There are to the best of my knowledge [and I have bothered to do some research on this issue] no deleterious consequences from taking very large quantities of vitamin and mineral supplements — unlike those well know legal, but addictive, toxic and ultimately [proven to be] fatal substances alcohol and tobacco.
Many of these supplements are just that — supplements i.e. they merely add to our daily intake of those vitamins and minerals which are found quite naturally in the food we eat. Is it, therefore, the intention of EU legislators to eventually tell us how many bananas [inter alia] we may eat to avoid succumbing to an overdose of potassium, etc?
I have the strong impression that the RDA is being used by yourselves, as legislators, as a benchmark to determine whether a particular supplement is ‘safe’ or may be regarded as a ‘medicine’ i.e. a particular supplement with a content less/equal to the RDA will be regarded is ‘safe’, otherwise it will be treated in the same category as a ‘medicine’. However, the RDA is, by its very definition, ‘recommended’ and is therefore simply a rough minimum guide to what we all should aim for in our diet. Some of us may require much more of a particular vitamin or mineral depending on our state of health, age, etc, and may only be able to obtain it through supplemental tablets or whatever. Even if, and it may be true, many of us who take vitamin and mineral supplements don’t always need these products — they may not do us much good, but certainly do us no harm — then surely that’s our choice and our money we are wasting. Furthermore, it is a [risk free] chance many users of supplements are happy to take for the sake of better health and much better, surely, than poisoning our systems with vast quantities of pharmaceutical products or hard drugs.

Third, as a corollary to my second point regarding interests and ‘medicines’, the only possible interests I can see being served by this legislation are those of the large pharmaceutical manufacturers who, I’m certain, will benefit in various and very lucrative ways :

# From the production of lower dosage supplements — which people will obviously need to buy more of, undoubtedly at higher cost, to gain the same dosages as they presently take — if they can afford it.
# From the manufacturer, and control of the market, of higher dosage supplements which will be labelled as ‘medicines’ — presumably, therefore, requiring some form of medical prescription to obtain them.
# Undoubtedly by larger sales of others of their current drug range, which will almost certainly occur due to a less healthy population.

Finally, may I assure you that I am great advocate of food safety and the safe use of dangerous pharmaceuticals — and understand that both of these areas require some form of control to ensure people’s health is protected. However, even if my understanding of this present raft of unnecessary legislation were not as comprehensive as I would desire [reading through some of the mind-numbing documentation, from the EU website, has proven to be very frustrating], the stench of self-interested big business riding roughshod over individual freedoms through ill-conceived legislation is definitely in the air. Vitamin and mineral supplements as ‘medicines’ ? The mind boggles. No doubt we will soon need a doctor’s prescription to obtain our weekly ration of fruit and vegetables.
It’s a great shame that the European legislative machine does not concentrate all of its considerable resources and efforts into making laws that restrict the use of substances that damage our health, rather than preventing citizens from freely obtaining substances that can enhance their health. It may be the greatest of ironies that in the near future we may require a medical prescription to obtain the health enhancing vitamin, mineral and other food supplements that we are now able to obtain quite freely, whilst alcohol, tobacco products and other such toxic substances will be able to be obtained in whatever health-damaging quantities we desire.
I would strongly urge you as an MEP to oppose and unequivocally reject all of the above elements of this European legislation wherever possible. I can assure you that if this legislation is eventually accepted into UK law, then it will be to the great detriment of every individual’s freedom of choice to decide what they can ‘afford’ to do to enhance their state of health. This legislation does nothing for the reputation of the European Union; I’m sure that as more and more citizens become aware of just how seriously their health-choice freedoms are being eroded, their voices of disbelief and discontent will soon become very much louder.

Very sincerely,
David T. Cooper