The EU Herbal Directive, 2011

by on 21/01/2012

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The UK herbal industry has been hijacked by the EU Herbal Directive which will become law in 2011. Five centuries of freedom for UK consumers to obtain herbal remedies will be swept away by a restrictive, rule-bound organization which is the EU.

The wishes of the pharmaceutical who dominated the EU committee who first looked into the ‘herbal issue’ years ago have been met. Small UK herbal suppliers are to be legislated out of existence. New entrants to the market will be dissuaded by the huge cost of entry. Big Pharma will be able to clean up. And some say this was their agenda all along.

History of the problem

What happened?

In 1998 or so the EU said they had received a large number of complaints from companies who said that it was difficult to sell their herbal products in other member countries. So, as the EU does, they said: “Let’s harmonize herbal regulations in all EU countries.”

This approach has some merit. If everyone follows the same rules in every country, it is easier for products to be sold in each country – rather than exporters having to accommodate different rules in every country. So, it’s OK for exporters.

The problem is, the ‘One Size Fits All’ approach.

Bye-bye freedom

It punishes countries who value freedom with regard to the issue under discussion. For countries which are liberal the EU Directive produced will change their laws dramatically.

So, with the matter of Herbal Directive, we have two countries – the UK and Holland – who are very liberal with regard to herbal supplements. All the other major countries are very restricted.

France – highly restricted

For example, in France you can only get herbal remedies from a chemist. And a mail order company would not be allowed. The French don’t care – it’s been that way for generations and they don’t know any better.

Italy – highly restricted too

Similarly in Italy – very restricted – at least in theory. But someone in the Italian industry told me a few years ago: “90% of herbal supplements in Italy are sold against the law”. In other words, they ignore the law. I am guessing that things may not changed in a country that can elect someone like Burlesconi as it’s leader.

In fact, the Europeans – certainly France, Italy, Spain – frequently ignore laws they don’t like because of the inflexible nature of the Napoleonic Code (the EU’s guide book) they all live by.

Big Pharma decides

So, when the pharmaceutical companies sitting on the original EU committee decided to apply a cut-down pharmaceutical regime, monitored by a country’s ‘pharmaceutical police’, I suppose there was no cause for surprise.

Small herbal companies are, apparently, to be grateful that, instead of £1m per product for a license, they only have to pay a mere £50,000 in total costs – per product. Not to mention the substantial additional ongoing costs.

The fact that many, if not most, of these products don’t sell anything like £50,000 worth of many of its product in ten years is regarded as a side-issue.

More gravy vicar?

Companies are being sidelined by a bureaucratic EU whose very being, who very gravy train, depends on more and more regulation.

And sidelined by a greedy pharmaceutical industry who can easily meet the new regulations and set up a production line to churn out herbal products to a highly regulated market.

The results of the herbal directive

In 2011, many now-legal products will become outlawed from sale in the whole EU.

Supply from the Channel Islands – once thought to be an option – will not be possible. The Channel Islands, once thought to be a bastion of freedom, putting up two fingers to the EU, have been whipped into line by having their financial freedoms threatened.

They know where their bread is buttered – and though the large health company Healthy Direct provide a large income, it’s nothing compared to the financial industry.

So the Channel Islands caved.

Basically, any herbal products supplied to anyone in the EU from within the EU will need a license.

If you are buying from outside the EU – eg buying herbal products from America, the EU Directive will not make this illegal; though customs could crack down on this theoretically.

Similarly, making and sending herbal products like this to someone outside the EU will not be illegal.

Herbal foods

Some herbs will be classifiable as foods. For example, cayenne pepper is a well known spice. Because of this, it will probably be possible to sell cayenne pepper capsules under food law. No license will be required.

However, this approach will not be possible for most herbs – which do not have a culinary use.

One thing is sure: 2011 will see hundreds if not thousands of herbal products removed from the market.

What will small herbal companies do?

Pray that we leave the EU so we can lobby our own government to change this stupid law.

There are many good reasons to leave the EU. Unnecessary laws imposed by bureaucrats curtailing our historic freedoms and putting small companies out of business is just one of them.

Daniel Hannan, MEP, has some concrete plans for how we can change our association with the EU to a looser one, and regain our sovereign nation. I recommend Daniel’s blog.

He has some interesting ideas.

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