Maine-et-Loire, France—After ten years of appeals and counter-appeals, a court in the central French province of Maine-et-Loire has ruled that vitamin C should not be considered a drug even in doses many times above the existing safety limit.
The verdict, delivered by the Court of Appeal of Angers, recommended vitamin C up to 1,000mg in strength be reclassified as a food, thereby allowing it to be sold in any retail outlet.
Presently, vitamin C with a potency greater than 120mg is classified as a medicine in France and is banned from the shelves of supermarkets, health food stores and other vendors without a medicinal licence.
Jacques Karlsson, secretary general of Synadiet, a body that represents French health-food manufacturers, says the decision was encouraging because it was based on evidence presented by traditionally conservative French regulatory bodies. These same bodies presented evidence and advice to the current draft of the European Food Supplements Directive to be debated in the European Parliament in January 2002.
"This decision reflects the likelihood that the Directive will recommend upper limits of about 1,000mg for vitamin C," Karlsson says. "It is definitely a good signal for the industry. Even though the court's verdict is only a recommendation, not legislation, and does not actually affect the availability of the product within Maine-et-Loire or anywhere else within France, it sets a precedent that cannot be ignored."
He said pharmacists, who brought the original case to court a decade ago to prevent supermarkets and health food outlets from stocking vitamin C, were unlikely to take the proceedings any further because of the impending Directive debate in the European Parliament.