In 2000 an estimated £335×106 was spent on food supplements and herbal remedies in the UK. Until recently, The Trades Description Act 1968, the Food Safety Act 1990 and The Food Labelling Regulations 1996 (amended 2004) were the only form of regulation available to protect the public. The medical community has been concerned about the risk to patients of inaccurate dosages and poor-quality products as well as drug–nutrient and nutrient–nutrient interactions. Following growing concern about the type and quality of food supplements and herbal remedies available in the EU, the European Commission has published directives regulating food supplements (2002/46/EC) and herbal remedies (2004/24/EC and 2004/27/EC) available within the EU. The directives came into force in 2005 and limit the number and quality of permitted food supplements through the creation of a ‘positive list’ of approved supplements. In the present paper the new regulatory frameworks and the implications for the food supplement manufacturers, traditional and complementary therapists, the healthcare professions and patients will be examined. It would appear that there is considerable dissatisfaction with the regulations in their present form. Several questions remain: is regulation the answer; who decides which nutrients go on the positive list; what effect has the regulation had on patient safety and patient choice?
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