EU judge warns that Food Supplements Directive is “illegal”

A senior EU judge has warned that the Food Supplements Directive is “illegal” and should be annulled.

The comments made by advocate general Geelhoed of the European Court of Justice (ECJ) came in his interim “Opinion” following the recent hearing at the ECJ of the legal challenge against the Directive mounted by British industry groups and campaigners.

Whilst the Opinion is only advisory, in the majority of European Court cases the panel of judges who deliver the final verdict follow the advice of the advocate general. The judges’ final ruling is expected just days ahead of the date when the Directive comes into force — August 1.

The legal challenge was mounted separately by the Health Food Manufacturers Association (HFMA) with the National Association of Health Stores (NAHS), and the Alliance for Natural Health. Both cases were held at a simultaneous hearing on January 25.

Responding to the latest news HFMA chair and Holland & Barrett md, Peter Aldis, commented: "The advocate general’s opinion is a scathing indictment of this shoddy piece of legislation. The Court’s conclusions show the European Commission and those who agreed this flawed regulation in an extremely bad light. We now look to the Court to formally agree with this opinion without further delay and to annul the Directive before untold damage is done to the health food industry and the rights of its customers to choose safe and popular vitamins and minerals.”

NAHS chairman, John Mckee, also wanted to see a swift resolution: “The Directive is due to be implemented in the UK by August 1. This is just weeks after the final decision by the Court. Meanwhile, retailers must now decide whether to wind down their stocks of the threatened products, under pain of £5,000 fines if they sell the products after this date.”

Consumers for Health Choice director Sue Croft said: “It’s a wonderful opportunity, but it is only an opinion and we have to wait until we get the final verdict before we get too excited. However, what this does give us is another lever with which to put pressure on the Government. And it is giving our campaign a whole new impetus.”

Dr Rob Verkerk of the Alliance for Natural Health added: “This is a great example of how much can be achieved by a small concentration of people and organisations. But we see this very much as the end of the beginning. There are additional directives, and CODEX, that each present new threats and we have a huge amount of work still to do.”

Some manufacturers are now calling for an injunction to lift the ban on supplements imposed by the FSD after the advocate general’s damning criticisms. However, the industry’s lawyers are said to be advising against such a move.