EU ministers yesterday [Thursday] reached “political agreement” on a proposed directive designed to harmonise the widely different national rules covering the sale of food supplements sold in special doses, in sachets, pills and capsules.

Essentially the legislation sets maximum limits determined by how much vitamins and minerals is good for the average person and how much he or she may take in from other foods already. Labels will give recommendations on use and warnings about excessive consumption and will be barred from claims that usage can prevent, treat or cure illness.

The European Commission said that “a varied diet remains the best approach to achieving good health.” David Byrne, Commissioner for Health, said the directive would solve the problems faced by manufacturers in marketing products across the EU and confronted by differences in national legislation. The directive includes a list of chemical substances authorised
for the European production of these vitamins and minerals, based on assessment by EU scientists.

The directive, which has to be considered by the European Parliament and then agreed jointly by the Parliament and ministers, is due to come into effect on 31 May 2001. The legislation was foreseen in the Commission’s White Paper on food safety published last year. The full text of the original proposal is available at

By Alan Osborn, correspondent