With only two-and-a-half years left for the submission of scientific dossiers to influence the final composition of the EU Directive on Food Supplements, efforts are being stepped up both in Europe and the US to commission and gather the scientific evidence that may ensure upper safe limits (USLs) are set at acceptable levels as well as adding some nutrients currently excluded from the legislation.
European and US trade organisations are planning summits involving key businesses, research institutes and regulatory bodies to positively influence the legislation.
The director of the UK-based Council for Responsible Nutrition, Maurice Hanssen, said now was the time for the supplements industry and the scientific community to take action to ensure the legislation was not so conservative as to be damaging.
The legislation officially become law in June, but aspects of it are yet to be finalised, such as USLs and those nutrients to be permitted in supplements in the EU.
Hanssen said there was a danger the gathering of science could be muddied by perceived political intent and hence there would be meetings next year between scientists and regulators without the presence of business or trade organisations.
"We don't want it to be said that industry is influencing scientific process," he said. "We are being transparent in the sense that we are disappearing from the process to let the scientists get down to business."
What is certain is the increasing part US scientists will play in the process. Bodies such as the US-based Food and Nutrition Board have been contacted and believed to possess scientific research that could have a positive effect on the legislation.
"It is not calling in the US like some kind of white knight," Hanssen said. "It's about bringing people together who have been conducting similar kinds of work and seeing how their work compares. One of our biggest problems is that a lot of the estimates being bandied about are merely guesstimates and we are trying to rectify that situation."
John Cordaro, president and CEO of the US CRN, said that America was becoming increasingly wary of the international influence the Directive may exert, especially through the Codex Alimentarius.
"One of the mission objectives of Codex is to harmonise nutrient levels and the Directive will be a major influence on those final global levels, if and when they are established," he said. "It is therefore in the American interest to do everything we can to ensure that the appropriate science is presented now to ensure levels are set reasonably and safely."
Another US body, the National Nutritional Foods Association, is working with CRN and encouraging its members to conduct more research to influence the Directive's final outcome. The NNFA typically represents smaller companies, many of whom have not undertaken scientific research due to cost and the liberal nature of DSHEA guidelines in the US which meant in many cases it was not called for.
Kim Smith, the NNFA's director of legislative affairs, said, "Many companies have not had an understanding of the legislative environment in Europe but they are becoming aware of it now, even if they don't export products there."