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August 31, 2004
A prominent European Commission official has backed one gram of vitamin C as a safe daily dose despite the fact the agency responsible for setting upper safe levels has not made a recommendation on this nutrient.
Speaking at the recent International Alliance of Dietary/Food Supplements Associations conference in Prague, Basil Mathioudakis, deputy head of unit, DG Sanco at the European Commission, said he was ?astonished? the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) had not established a maximum level. ?There was a large difference between the RDA and the upper safe level and nobody could decide—but I don?t think 1,000mg would be a problem,? he said.
However, Hildegard Przyrembel, director of the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment in Germany, and deputy chairman of the EFSA committee, claimed there was insufficient data for long-term usage and that all food sources of vitamin C needed to be taken into account. Some safety dossiers were unclear or incomplete, she noted.
?It?s not enough to say something has been on the market for 10 years and nobody has died. Food safety levels must be higher than drugs,? she said.
Gert Krabichler, chairman of European Responsible Nutrition Alliance, disagreed. ?Even if no upper level is set, and providing there is no concern by EFSA or the Scientific Committee on Food, then we think products with a history of safe use should be sold,? he said. ?In most EU countries there is a history of safe use for vitamin C.?
EFSA is currently evaluating the safety of a number of vitamins and minerals, a process it expects to conclude by April 2005.
In the absence of an upper safe recommended level for some nutrients, some countries including Denmark, Greece, Spain and France continue to set their own levels based on RDA multiples—even as the international food regulation advisory body Codex abandons RDAs as the basis for establishing maximum levels of vitamins and minerals in the guidelines it is compiling.
Codex has declared its intention to be guided by scientifically substantiated safety levels in the future.
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