Nutrition and food supplements have always been a favourite subject for the media, when something negative or contradictory had been reported. However, the information and the details provided in articles was not always completely accurate. This became a great concern to the VMS industry. In order to counter this, and to provide journalists with scientific information and reasoned comment, PAGB proposed to set up some form of information service providing an accessible on-line database of nutrition facts. Supported by the members of the Food Supplement Forum, as the VMS membership had become known, the Health Supplement Information Service (HSIS) was launched in 1999.
HSIS’s first task was compiling individual fact sheets for all recognised vitamins and minerals, for supplements such as fish oils and evening primrose oil, and for the role and place of food supplements as part of a healthy lifestyle. An independent panel of nutritionists was appointed to check and ultimately approve the details in the fact sheets in order to ensure that all the information contained within them was based on up-to-date scientific knowledge and evidence. These fact sheets or ‘monographs’ were subject to regular review so that information could be added or changed as new data became available.
It soon became apparent that HSIS should perform a second service, that of alerting members to the publication in medical and scientific journals of clinical trials and other research investigating the effects of vitamins, minerals or members’ food supplements. HSIS had access to a pool of key opinion leaders (KOLs) who could be called upon to explain details of these projects and to comment on the results. Thirdly, HSIS held information days for journalists to discuss or highlight specific food supplement or general nutrition issues.
The Food Supplement Forum met four or five times annually and these meetings became of utmost importance when new EU regulatory initiatives were announced. The first of these, the Food Supplement Directive not only proposed to define “food supplement” for the first time, but also to lay down rules for the labelling of such products, to specify a list of recognised vitamins and minerals and the chemical forms in which they could be used in supplement formulations, and to lay the groundwork for the development of a regulation on health and nutrient claims. Being an interested party, PAGB received the draft of the proposals and this allowed members to comment. PAGB was also able to facilitate meetings with representatives of the Food Standards Agency (the Agency responsible for this at the time), allowing Food Supplement Forum members to directly express any concerns and make recommendations for amendments.
PAGB again played a pivotal role for members of the Food Supplement Forum when proposals for an EU Nutrition and Health claims regulation were issued. PAGB prepared submissions in order to apply for a variety of claims for individual vitamins and minerals and assisted the members by collating their specific submissions in order to pass these on to the national authority.
Seven Seas always considered membership of PAGB to be of great value. When new regulatory initiatives were proposed, PAGB distributed these and asked for comments. It was Seven Seas’ philosophy to always take part actively in these consultations. The opportunity to comment on any proposals is of great importance. This was enabled by the close working relationship with the Association through PAGB’s good connections with relevant government departments. Similarly, Seven Seas was an active contributor to HSIS.
PAGB’s Food Supplement Forum allowed Seven Seas to interact and have frank discussions with other members. Forum meetings were friendly and professional. Membership becomes more important as any future potential changes create much uncertainty. Congratulations PAGB on your 100th birthday!
By Willem Vas Dias, Retired Nutritionist