PositionCases of European Union. European Commission

The European Court's support this week for strict controls on vitamins has been greeted by European consumers as a clear victory for them and for the EU's right to regulate on the safety of food products. But the ruling, on the EU's 2002 Food Supplements Directive, has been received with dismay by smaller firms claiming that it threatens the free market and will put them out of business.

This has been one of the long-running EU battles in that no-man's land between boosting business and protecting the public. The case exemplifies an underlying debate that the EU has not yet resolved - and which it may never resolve fully.

It sits alongside other discussions that pit public interest against private profit, or citizens' freedom against the nanny state. "Certain restrictions can be justified by the protection of public health", the Court concluded. The carefully-worded "certain restrictions" makes it clear: there are no simple answers here. It is a constant process of evaluating which restrictions are justifiable.

As Robert Madelin, the European Commission's Director-General responsible for Health and Consumer Protection, remarks in an interview in this issue of Europe Information, the EU has to make "judgements at the margins of proportionality and subsidiarity, where reasonable people will differ".

While the post-summit, post-London EU is pursuing its broader reflections...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT