Earlier this week the EU Scientific Committee on Food issued its first opinions regarding the tolerable upper intake limits (UL) of vitamins and minerals, in anticipation of final approval by the European Parliament of the controversial proposed Directive relating to food supplements. Today we report that the Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals (EVM), an independent UK group set up in 1997 to advise on safe upper levels of vitamin and mineral consumption, on Thursday issued a consultation document on the maximum levels of vitamins and minerals that are safe to consume.
The EVM has spent four years assessing the available scientific evidence on vitamins and minerals, in response to public concern and confusion over the possible dangers of taking high amounts of vitamins and minerals over long periods of time.
Professor Michael Langman, Chairman of the EVM, said: "A broad range of data was considered in depth by the group. We are now seeking consultation responses on draft recommendations."
The EVM is an independent group made up of 10 members from the medical and scientific community, one lay member, and four observers representing consumer organisations, the health and food industries, and alternative medicine interests.
The group carried out a detailed nutritional and toxicological review of 34 vitamins and minerals, with particular reference to how safe they are when consumed over a long period of time. Safe upper levels were suggested for nine of them, guidance suggested for 22, and statements were issued for three minerals. Guidance was given where there was not enough evidence to suggest a safe upper level for a particular vitamin and mineral. Both guidance and safe upper levels refer to a total level taken in from food, supplements, or a combination of the two.
Full details about the safe levels can be found on the UK Food Standards Agency website.
At present, there are no European Union-wide rules on vitamin and mineral supplements. Every country implements its own rules, with Britain having one of the more liberal regimes. But in July 2003 member states will implement the directive on food supplements. The directive covers the composition (limited at present to naming the vitamins and minerals that can be used) and labelling of food supplements. It also provides for the setting of maximum levels of vitamins and minerals in food supplements although these have not yet been set.
Discussion on maximum levels for each vitamin and mineral to be enforced across the EU will now occur further to the SCF conclusions issued earlier this week. According to a statement the FSA will ensure that members of the SCF, plus key officials in other EU member states and the European Commission, are made aware of the EVM's conclusions.
The FSA also stressed its position regarding the 'Upper Levels' issue, that any EU levels set should be based on safe levels and not on recommended intakes.