October 6, 2011
After much deliberation, new European Union regulations have come into place banning hundreds of traditional herbal remedies. Under the guise of “protecting” consumers from these “dangerous” supplements, the European Union has opened the flood gates to an onslaught of new legislation designed to cut off access to alternative health supplements worldwide, setting the precedent for the government to tell us what we can and cannot put in our own bodies. The rules allow for only “long-established and quality-controlled medicines” to be sold to consumers, limiting the advancement of any new companies or establishments that the government does not deem to be “quality” by their own terms. This type of governmental regulation of nutritional supplements may soon spill over to the food industry, where government involvement may be even more cause for concern.
Until now, the herbal supplement industry was governed by the 1968 Medicines Act, which was created when there were very few companies selling herbal remedies. Presently, about a quarter of all adults in the UK have used herbal medicine in the past two years, predominately purchasing it over the counter in health food stores and pharmacies. With the widespread use of alternative remedies that cost very little compared to expensive pharmaceuticals and surgeries, comes the intensive regulation of such natural products. The main targets under the new system include echinacea, St John’s Wort and valerian, as well as traditional Chinese and Indian medicines. These are supplements that pose almost zero risk to one’s health as long as they are taken correctly and from high quality sources. How then could these natural health ingredients possibly be seen as a threat to the health of the consumer?