Battling disproportionate EU health food regulations to protect consumer rights to choice in the UK.
Formed in 1996, Consumers for Health Choice (CHC) is a campaigning organisation defending the interests of consumers of food supplements, herbal remedies and other natural health products. CHC has fought a lengthy and successful campaign against a series of regulations from the European Union that are overly restrictive and would prevent UK consumers having continued access to safe and popular products traditionally used in the UK to achieve and maintain optimum health.
CHC has maintained an intensive public affairs and political lobbying campaign within the United Kingdom political environment to ensure that successive governments are at all times fully aware of the depth of concern about disproportionate regulatory developments. CHC has regularly briefed and lobbied all UK Members of the European Parliament, and members from other Member States who serve on the key Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee of that Parliament. We have also established an ongoing dialogue with officials of key Government agencies, including the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the Department of Health and social care, and the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). CHC’s views are also registered when appropriate directly with the highest political levels of the European Commission.
A high media profile, the recruitment and deployment of high profile celebrity supporters, and a continual pressure on Labour, Coalition and Conservatives governments through the tabling of Parliamentary Questions, debates and other political activity, has kept pressure constantly on the UK Government to negotiate more actively for a more proportionate approach in Europe.
CHC has been lobbying hard for the Food Supplements Directive to be implemented in a way that permits member states flexibility to allow products onto their national markets that lie outside its otherwise restrictive provisions, for a light touch implementation of the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive and for a proportionate approach to the assessment of botanical health claims under the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation.
At a recent CHC Parliamentary Reception, an event that has been held annually for more than a decade, the Public Health Minister praised CHC’s campaign as one of the most effective she had ever observed. It is because of this that CHC has now achieved a situation where even the European Commission, who at a Director General and Commissioner level have long been aware of CHC’s work, has come to support a lighter-touch regulatory framework for food supplements and health products across the EU. Meanwhile many MEPs from across the European Union have signed up as patrons of CHC.
The FSA, now the Department of Health, and MHRA have long been committed to working with CHC and industry representatives to implement the legislation more in keeping with CHC’s aspirations.
CHC has also been congratulated in a House of Commons motion on its “persistent work…in keeping the future availability of the humble vitamin pill high upon the political and parliamentary agenda”.
When Consumers for Health Choice was launched in 1996, it was clear that we needed expert political guidance to effectively reach MPs, MSPs, MEPs, regulators and decision makers in London, Edinburgh and Brussels. Christopher Whitehouse and the Whitehouse Consultancy opened doors for us that likely would have remained closed without his exceptional parliamentary knowledge and contacts across all parties. In fact, appointing the Whitehouse Consultancy was probably the best move we ever made as we are now welcomed and accepted as the ‘voice of the consumer’ when lobbying on natural health matters. After many years, we still rely on Christopher’s direction and sound advice, and will continue to do so.