Significant trade barriers for food supplements still exist at a national level in the European Union — but there are ways around them, according to the European Federation of Associations of Health Product Manufacturers (EHPM).
The Brussels-based trade body, which represents more than 2,000 specialist health product manufacturers across Europe, said that EU harmonisation of legislation relating to dietary supplements was not yet complete and there was still a long way to go towards achieving free movement of these products across the EU. It said obstacles to pan-European marketing of food supplements were found in areas such as which ingredients were allowed for use and the levels authorised for nutrients.
But Peter van Doorn, chairman of EHPM, said: "Some companies don't realise that they have options. EU legal principles and case law can be used to overcome national trade barriers and allow the free movement of food supplements across the 27 member states. We are regularly seeing companies taking court action against national authorities for preventing their products access to a specific market, or submitting their complaints on this to the European Commission."
EHPM is organising a 'Free Trade Initiative' workshop for its members next month to help companies find solutions to the key issues causing barriers to trade. The day-long event will give companies an overview of how the free movement of goods applies in practice in the EU, and explore the principle of Mutual Recognition in relation to food supplements, with a Commission representative offering an assessment of how the European Commission's proposal for a new Regulation on Mutual Recognition will facilitate intra-community trade for food supplements.
"By sharing views, problems and potential solutions, we can learn how to 'work the system' more effectively and help companies to overcome trade barriers," said Van Doorn.
"The principle of Mutual Recognition has been tried successfully by several companies in the past, and the continued pressure from industry is paying off. For example, France has recently incorporated the principle into its food supplement legislation, allowing acceptance of products that are legally on the market in another member state. As long as there are still many non-harmonised ingredients and products, the use of the Mutual Recognition principle may open up markets."