A critical study published in the scientific journal Toxicology casts serious doubts over the methods being considered by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Commission to limit dosages of vitamin and mineral food supplements across the European Union (EU).
Lead author of the Toxicology article, Robert Verkerk PhD, scientific and executive director of Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) International, considers the proposed methods for determining ‘maximum permitted levels’ as “fatally flawed”. Dr Verkerk and colleagues have made extensive representations concerning nutrient risk analysis to European and international authorities in the past, however, the Toxicology paper represents the most thorough scientific critique undertaken to-date.
Dr Verkerk claims that outputs from the models most favoured by European authorities have never been subject to proper scientific validation. The paper reveals that proposed maximum amounts for some vitamins and minerals are so low they may even be exceeded in a single junk meal.
The risk analysis methods being used for nutrients”, stated Dr Verkerk, “have been only slightly adapted from those used to limit our exposure to environmental chemicals like mercury, pesticides or dioxins. Nutrients cannot be treated in the same way because without them, unlike with environmental toxins, we suffer serious adverse health effects or die.
A recent impact assessment undertaken by two UK health trade associations, the Health Food Manufacturers Association and the National Association of Health Stores, found that the proposed restrictions in the UK alone could potentially lead to the loss of well over £100 million worth of sales, the closure of more than 700 independent retail stores and around 4,000 job losses. Concerns over the impact of the restrictions were put forward on 2 December 2009 in the UK Parliament through an Early Day Motion (EDM 336).
ANH International claims that the findings revealed in the Toxicology article are of such profound significance that the European Commission’s plans to limit dosages of vitamin and mineral food supplements EU-wide should be delayed until such time that new, scientifically validated methods are developed.
The article has also exposed the fact that important principles for nutrient risk analysis put forward by a World Health Organisation expert group in 2006 have so far been ignored. The authors of the critique suggest that entirely new methods, derived from the field of decision science, may be the most valid approach for nutrients.
Verkerk said, It is now incumbent on the European Food Safety Authority, as the risk assessor, and the European Commission and EU Member States, as the risk managers, to fully justify their approach as well as the ways in which they intend to overcome the problems revealed in our analysis of their methods.
 Verkerk, R.H.J., Hickey, S., A critique of prevailing approaches to nutrient risk analysis pertaining to food supplements with specific reference to the European Union. Toxicology (2009), doi:10.1016/j.tox.2009.12.017 View Abstract