We live in dark times, times of spin, when political power and profit count more than individual choice, freedom or health.
In the UK, the EU's Food Supplements directive was passed on Thursday (June 3) by a whisker - just 7 to 6 in favour - by a select committee, no doubt so-called because the government specially selected it. The original group of 16 had been successfully lobbied by various pressure groups, and a majority of members had accepted the argument that the directive was a wicked piece of legislation that took away freedom of choice.
So what happened? The government de-selected those members who were likely to cause embarrassment to an already embattled government, and replaced them at the 11th hour by MPs who know nothing of the arguments. Even on the day before the meeting, nobody knew who would be chairing the committee! As it turned out, it was health minister Melanie Johnson who took the chair, but who clearly did not understand any of the issues. Tory MP Chris Grayling described the EU and Labour governments as playing 'jackboot politics'.
So the directive has been nodded through, and, within a few years, thousands of high-dose vitamins and other supplements will disappear from our shelves forever.
Not that you need a directive or a re-selected select committee to get your way. In Australia, virtually every natural product has suddenly been taken off the healthfood shop shelves. The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) performed this feat just by taking away the manufacturing licence of one manufacturer that supplies around 80 per cent of the entire alternative marketplace. The manufacturer, Pan Pharmaceuticals, also makes prescription and over-the-counter drugs, and it was one of its OTC remedies, Travacalm, for travel sickness, that aroused the interest of the TGA when people complained the drug was causing hallucinations.
The drug was immediately withdrawn-and then, three months later, the TGA came back and banned all 1363 alternatives remedies also manufactured by Pan.
Similar moves have been happening in South Africa and Canada - and the whole nutritional industry is under attack in America, too. The US nutritional industry thought its products were made sacrosanct under the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act (DSHEA) of 1994. But it is under threat again, this time from a new bill, the Dietary Supplement Safety Act, which has been introduced by Illinois senator Dick Durbin.
The new act would give sweeping powers to the FDA, the USA's drugs regulator, which would be able to remove any dietary supplement for which an adverse reaction had been reported.
This bill could be voted on in just two weeks, giving consumer groups virtually no time to campaign against it. Dark days indeed - so we, as individuals, must become a light unto ourselves. Watch this space for some good news, and, in the meantime, don't despair!