The UK-based, international campaign group, the Alliance for Natural Health International (ANH-Intl), today releases figures showing that food supplements are the safest substances regularly consumed by UK citizens.
Both food supplements and herbal remedies are in the ‘supersafe’ category of individual risk – meaning risk of death from their consumption is less than 1 in 10 million.
ANH-Intl executive and scientific director, Robert Verkerk PhD, hailed the figures as shedding new light on the vexed question of natural healthcare’s safety. “These figures tell us not only what activities an individual is most or least likely to die from, but also what the relative risks of various activities are to society as a whole. It puts some real perspective on the actual risk of death posed by food supplements and herbal remedies at a time when governments are clamping down because they tell us they’re dangerous.”
Commenting on the UK data, Verkerk added, “When compared with the risk of taking food supplements, an individual is around 900 times more likely to die from food poisoning and nearly 300,000 times more likely to die from a preventable medical injury during a spell in a UK hospital. The latter is on a par with the risk of death from active military service in Iraq or Afghanistan.”
According to Dr Verkerk, the new figures should help to pressurise UK and European authorities to reduce regulatory burdens on natural health products. “Governments justify the increasingly elaborate and restrictive new laws affecting natural health products on grounds of public safety”, said Verkerk. “They argue that reducing consumer access to food supplements and herbal remedies, with the consequent negative impacts on small businesses manufacturing, distributing and selling such products, is in society’s interest. But the evidence is simply not there – where are the bodies?”
Also, adverse reactions to pharmaceutical drugs are 62,000 times more likely to kill a UK citizen than taking a food supplement, and 7,750 times more likely than herbal remedies.
While the ANH-Intl makes clear that the data include only risk of acute death, rather than the risk of death from chronic, long-term exposure, or the risk of sublethal side effects, the overall pattern of risk from various activities continues to show that food supplements are by far the safest group of substances consumed by humans. Accordingly, the campaign group argues, in line with the good governance policies supported by the British and a number of other European governments, the available data can justify only a light-touch approach to the regulation of natural health products.