By Louise Barnett
NEW curbs on vitamin and mineral pills by Brussels are threatening to push hundreds of UK health food stores out of business with the loss of up to 4,000 jobs.
Campaigners say the EU Commission’s plans will hit hundreds of their best-selling supplements, including vitamins A, C, and D, folic acid, calcium and iron.
Many of these products could fall foul of changes to EU laws because their vitamin or mineral content would be illegally high, according to the Consumers For Health Choice campaign.
It warns that the loss of these key products would force up to 700 health food stores to close.
Roger Craddock, legal director of health food chain Holland & Barrett, which supports the campaign, said: “We do not believe this legislation is necessary in the UK, as our food supplements market is radically different from other EU member states.”
The EU is expected to make an announcement within weeks detailing its new permitted levels for vitamins and minerals in food supplements. Other products affected will be vitamins E, K, and B, magnesium and zinc.
Mr Craddock said: “The decision could actually encourage consumers to buy the products from an unregulated environment over the internet where they could be purchasing poor quality or even fake products.”
The CHC campaign, which has 11,000 UK members, says France and Germany are pushing the European Commission to legislate to allow only low-dose levels of vitamins and minerals to be used in food supplements. A spokesman for the group said: “The UK is one of only a few countries pressing for higher levels. We will simply be outvoted in the European decision-making process.”
David Adams, spokesman for the Health Food Manufacturers’ Association, said: “Our research suggests that this issue will have a major impact resulting in both store closures and job losses.”
Britons spend £396million a year on vitamin tablets and supplements and sales have remained strong despite the recession. One in three women takes some form of health food supplement, as does one in four men.