A UK-based trade association is preparing a legal challenge to the ban on kava kava (Piper methysticum) that could precipitate the lifting of similar prohibitions in other countries such as Germany, Australia and Canada.
The 420-member National Association of Health Stores (NAHS), in conjunction with British actress and kava advocate Jenny Seagrove, has had its application for a Judicial Review accepted. Lawyers have advised the group it has a 70 per cent chance of success.
As FFN went to press, the relevant UK health authorities — the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (formerly the Medicines Control Agency) and the Food Standards Agency — had been asked by the courts to submit further written evidence in defense of the ban, after which the NAHS and Seagrove could enter final counter arguments.
Harald Dittmar, managing director of the German Association of Supplement Manufacturers (BDIH), said the case was being closely monitored in his homeland, which issued the first kava kava ban in late 2001. "We are for the liberalisation of laws in this area so a victory could have ramifications here in Germany and through the rest of Europe. Obviously, if the case is successful, it won't have a direct legal impact here, but it could influence further discussions on kava kava."
The application attacks the validity of the ban on many grounds including that it breaches European law, ignores relevant considerations and miscomprehends lawful requirements such as the rights of the individual and businesses.
NAHS Director Ralph Pike said the ban was unjustified given the extremely low level of risk kava kava posed and the question marks that hang over the evidence that provoked the bans in many countries in the first place.
The president of the Health Food Manufacturers Association, Maurice Hanssen, said his group supported the action. "We think it was rather a good argument. The HFMA council recommended its members to support the action if they so wished although we didn't have the funds to support it financially. It is risky given the finances of the NAHS, but it is a daring thing to do and if it comes off it will benefit the whole trade."
A decision is expected by August.