Consumer Affairs: MPs fight curbs on vitamin sales

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LABOUR BACKBENCHERS warned the Government yesterday not to impose regulations on producers of vitamins, minerals and dietary supplements unless the products proved to be unsafe.

Mark Todd, the MP for Derbyshire South, stressed during a short debate that consumers should be left to make their own choices.

It was not the role of government to prevent people from taking products that were considered safe. Companies producing the supplements were at risk of going under if strict rules were introduced.

Mr Todd, a member of the Agriculture Select Committee, described as a "fiasco" recent proposals to regulate vitamin B6 despite the fact that no one taking it "had complained of ill effects. I do believe the consumer should be left to make their own judgements on these matters. It simply shouldn't be the Government's business to prevent someone taking a product not known to be unsafe, if they feel it does them good.

"Let us establish a clear framework for how to regulate these products. If further regulation is needed, then we should consult the public on their perceptions - and then act.

"Without this, I believe we risk incoherent action, damaging to businesses and totally inexplicable to many consumers."

But Tessa Jowell, the minister for Public Health, insisted the Government's plans for the licensing of medicines would not affect dietary supplements. "Claims that if the consultation proposals became law the Medicine Control Agency would sweep supplements and herbal remedies from the shelves unless they were licensed are completely unfounded," she said.

The Government's proposals would make the classification of medicines "more transparent, consistent and credible", she said. In addition, there would be a statutory right for manufacturers to enter the licensing process.

However, Brian Iddon, the Labour MP for Bolton South East, said dietary supplements fell into a "regulatory no man's land. Attempts to use either medicines law or foodstuffs law to regulate them will, and has, caused problems," he said.