4 Ways Brexit Could Affect the Supplement Industry

Herbs and Helpers

It’s been a little over two months since the UK shocked the world with its “Brexit” vote to leave the European Union, and by now experts have had a chance to consider its potential impact on the dietary supplements industry. While much uncertainty still exists, a few key challenges have emerged for ingredient suppliers and manufacturers operating in the UK and/or continental Europe as a result of Brexit. It’s not all bad news, either, as there may also be some new opportunities for growth and innovation in certain markets.

On Tuesday, the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA; Silver Spring, MD) and the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN; Washington, DC) hosted a joint webinar on the transition, titled “Brexit Impact on the Marketing of Food Supplements in the EU and the UK.” Due to the unprecedented nature of a Brexit, webinar speakers were careful to note it’s still hard to say exactly what the future of the UK will be after it leaves the EU. It all depends on how economically independent the UK decides to become.

A Few Options

For instance, the UK might leave the EU and instead choose to follow the same model as Norway, Iceland, and Lichtenstein by joining the European Economic Area (EEA). Under this model, the UK would still be able to participate in the EU internal market and have relatively free movement of goods, services, and persons.

“If the UK went down a Norway or EEA model approach, it’s very unlikely that there’d be any material change to the legal position,” explained Brian Kelly, AHPA-CRN webinar speaker and attorney at Covington & Burling LLP. “The UK’s implementation of EU existing food law would remain valid and the UK could continue to implement future laws, and also, importantly, rely on EU principles of mutual recognition.”

Under this option, which is arguably one of the least disruptive Brexit outcomes, the main problem for the UK would be a loss of influence as it became “relegated to an observer role within key institutions like the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA),” Kelly notes.

Of course, the UK may instead opt for a relationship more similar to what Switzerland currently has, operating under about 130 separately negotiated bilateral treaties with the EU. Or, it could adopt a total free trade approach with no preferential access on the EU market at all. Under these other, non-EEA models, the impact on industry has the potential to be much more dramatic.

Here are a few possible Brexit outcomes to consider:

Maximum Levels of Vitamins and Minerals

EU politicians have long been at an impasse when it comes to setting maximum levels of vitamins and minerals, with official EU levels still not established due to various political pressures. But with the potential EU departure of the UK—one of the most liberal voices on the issue thanks to its preference for high safety levels—there may be more consensus among the remaining EU member states.

“There could well be the potential that without the UK as an [EU] member, the rest of the member states may now say ‘let’s tackle this issue,” said Simon Pettman, AHPA-CRN webinar speaker and executive director of the International Alliance of Dietary/Food Supplement Associations (IADSA).

While maximum levels in the UK could remain relatively high after Brexit, the EU might then be able to harmonize its maximum levels at a lower threshold.

“Even today, with mutual recognition [of products sold in other member states], several member states accept products which they don’t like,” said Gert Krabichler, PhD, AHPA-CRN webinar speaker and global head of regulatory policy and intelligence for Merck Consumer Health. “But [some EU member states] would push, if it comes to regulation, probably for lower [maximum] levels. So there I definitely see a risk.”


Botanical ingredients are another area where the UK has taken a stance outside the average of most of the EU. While many EU countries have pushed for botanicals to be more freely incorporated for use in food supplements, the UK has historically supported the more pharmaceutical approach to treating botanicals as traditional herbal medicinal products, IADSA’s Pettman said.

Currently, there is little harmonized approach to botanicals in the EU, with each member state allowed to treat botanicals the way it chooses, explained Krabichler. But without the UK in the discussion, it’s possible the rest of the EU might move more toward treating botanicals more like supplements.

“In broad terms, on the continent of Europe, there is quite a lot of support certainly in France, Italy, Belgium, and Central Europe for botanicals to be incorporated, let’s say a more free approach, to botanicals to be used in food supplements,” Pettman said.

But even without the UK’s influence in the discussion, reaching consensus among other EU member states may still be difficult, Pettman pointed out.

Relocating Facilities?

One of the more immediate questions Brexit poses is whether companies should start looking into establishing facilities in continental Europe (if they don’t currently have them) and begin relocating away from the UK. That way, a company could be prepared in case the UK is in fact removed from the EU single market under one of the non-EEA options.

“Just on a practical level, you could look, for example, at the products you have which are being imported into the UK perhaps with a view to the EU entry point, and just check the supply-chain arrangements that you have to see whether the distribution of those products can easily be switched to a buyer or different member state,” Covington & Burling’s Kelly said. However, for the time being, he says it may be best just to “watch and wait.”

In the meantime, companies may actually find it more attractive to stay in the UK as the recent drop in the pound allows for relatively low manufacturing costs, Merck Consumer Health’s Krabichler noted.

The Future of EFSA

Despite the sense among many pro-Brexit UK voters that the UK has little influence over EU policy, Brexit could have a particularly substantial impact on the European Food Safety Authority. That’s because more than 30% of the scientists involved in EFSA are either UK nationals or located in the UK, according to IADSA’s Pettman.

“The question is, what will their role be in the future? Will [UK scientists] be just observers? Will EFSA find a way to involve them?” Pettman said.

Depending on which Brexit option the UK chooses, the UK may even have to create its own scientific body, although EFSA would still likely retain its prestigious position.

“EFSA’s positioned itself so strongly as a primary scientific body in Europe and a lead body in the world, and that will not change if the UK is in or out,” Pettman said.

One upside to being out of EFSA, however, might be that the UK would then be free to allow for greater innovation. For instance, health claims for whole grains and heart health have been rejected in the EU because the many member states weren’t able to get past the “technical harmonizing issues” of defining whole grain, Covington & Burling’s Kelly explained. Potentially, the UK has the opportunity to become a nimbler innovation center on these kinds of issues once outside the EU.

Source: Nutritional Outlook

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The pot plants that could clean up the air in your home: Scientists reveal which species act as air filters

Herbs and Helpers

Research have revealed popular plants may absorb toxins from the air

Their leaves remove volatile organic compounds released around them

Some plants are better at leeching the compounds from the environment
Bromeliads were seen to remove the VOCs from their living space

They brighten up our homes and cheer up our offices. But house plants also clean up the air that we breathe.

Research has shown that popular pot plants also absorb dangerous chemicals, leaving the air cleaner for us to breathe.

One of the best ‘natural air fresheners’ is Guzmania lingulata, or the scarlet star, a colourful and tropical type of bromeliad which blooms for months indoors.

A study has found that popular house plants do more than brighten up their surroundings, they may also absorb dangerous chemicals, leaving the air cleaner for us to breathe


Researchers from the State University of New York have revealed popular plants may absorb toxins from the air.

The plants remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs) released around them by a variety of sources.

However, some plants were found to be better at leeching the compounds from the environment than others.

Bromeliads were seen to remove the VOCs from their living space.

Others include the corn plant (Dracaena fragrans) which boasts long, variegated leaves that are particularly good at mopping up acetone, the pungent chemical in nail varnish remover.

The work comes amid mounting concern about the damage done by indoor air pollution, including toxins called volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, which released by everything from paint and printers to cleaning chemicals and dry-cleaned clothes.

The Royal College of Physicians has estimated that indoor air pollution contributes to 99,000 deaths in Europe every year.

Plus, many people believe they suffer from ‘sick building syndrome’, in which stagnant, polluted air is blamed for triggering everything from headaches to skin allergies and fatigue.

The State University of New York researchers said: ‘Buildings, whether new or old, can have high levels of VOCs in them, sometimes so high you can smell them.’

Researchers revealed that one of the best ¿natural air fresheners¿ was Guzmania lingulata, or the scarlet star (pictured), a colourful and tropical type of bromeliad which blooms for months indoors


As part of the study, the team looked at the ability of five species to remove volatile organic compounds from their surroundings.

Top plants included the Scarlet star (Guzmania lingulata), a tropical flowering plant from South and Central America which produces striking red flowers in the shape of a star (when viewed from above).

The Corn plant (Dracaena fragrans) is another office stable and African native which thrive in the sheltered light of indoors, andwas shown to greatly improve air quality. Due to their adaptations to the heat and extended dry periods, these hardy plants can deal with a degree of drying out in between watering.

Most office workers and home owners will be familiar with the spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum). A native of the African continent, the hardy plant has found great success as an indoor house plant due to its ease of care, but which the study found also removes VOCs from the air.

The remaining two species looked at in the study were the Jade plant (Crassula ovata) and the Caribbean tree cactus (Consolea falcata).

The scientists placed five different pot plants in a sealed chamber pumped full of VOCs and monitored how levels of the chemicals changed over time.

Tests involving five common house plants and eight VOCs found that certain plants are better at absorbing specific compounds.

For example, all five could remove acetone, the pungent chemical abundant at nail salons, but the dracaena plant took up the most, around 94 per cent of the chemical.

The best all-rounder was the scarlet star, a member of the bromeliad family.

Study leader Dr Vadoud Niri said: ‘Based on our results, we can recommend what plants are good for certain types of VOCs and for specific locations.

‘To illustrate, the bromeliad plant was very good at removing six out of eight studied VOCs – it was able to take up more than 80 per cent of each of those compounds – over the twelve hour sampling period.

House plants remove volatile organic compounds released around them by a variety of sources. However, some plants were found to be better at leeching the compounds from the environment than others (stock image used)

‘So it could be a good plant to have sitting around in the household or workplace.’

The other three plants studied were the jade plant (Crassula argentea), the spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum) and the Caribbean tree cactus (Consolea falcata), an American Chemical Society conference heard.

The Royal Horticultural Society said that pot plants confer multiple benefits.

Dr Tijana Blanusa, the RHS’s principal horticultural scientist, said: ‘Psychological benefits of indoor plants have been shown through the improved mood of people exposed to them, reduced stress levels, increased worker productivity in the working population, and increased pain tolerance, for example, where plants were used in hospital settings.

‘Indoor plants can also elicit a number of physical health benefits, including the removal of airborne pollutants, leading to better indoor air quality and associated improvements in physical health.’

Source: Daily Mail

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Regular nibbling on nuts linked to low inflammation

Herbs and Helpers

(Reuters Health) – Eating a handful of nuts five times per week may reduce inflammation, a condition that contributes to heart disease, diabetes and many other chronic illnesses, say the authors of a recent U.S. study.

This inflammation-dampening effect might be the secret to the health benefits of nuts, the study team writes in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Past research has linked eating nuts to lower rates of heart disease and diabetes, but the exact reason was unknown, senior study author Dr. Ying Bao, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, told Reuters Health.

“We hypothesized that nuts may exert these health benefits by reducing inflammation,” Bao said by email.

Nuts may lower inflammation because they contain fiber, magnesium, antioxidants and other health-boosting ingredients, the researchers write.

To explore the connection between nuts and inflammation, the researchers analyzed data from two different long-term studies of health professionals, the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) and the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study (HPFS).

The participants filled out questionnaires every four years documenting what they ate between 1986 and 1990 in the NHS and between 1990 and 1994 in the HPFS. The 5,013 people included in the new analysis were free of heart disease and diabetes at the beginning of the study period.

During the last two to three years of each study, blood samples were collected from subjects to look at the presence of three different biomarkers, or characteristic indicators, of inflammation.

People who ate nuts at least five times per week had 20 percent lower levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) compared to people who never or rarely ate nuts. They also had 16 percent lower levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6), another inflammatory marker.

The results held after researchers accounted for other aspects of diet, as well as exercise, body weight, smoking and other factors that could influence inflammation.

Eating plenty of nuts had no effect on the third inflammatory biomarker the researchers looked at, known as TNFR2, however.

For the study, one serving of nuts was defined as one ounce, or about a handful of peanuts or tree nuts, or one tablespoon of peanut butter.

The apparent benefits of nuts were similar regardless of the type of nuts people ate, though there was no benefit seen for peanut butter.

Researchers also calculated the effects of substituting three servings of nuts per week for three servings of red meat, processed meat, eggs or refined grains. The swap was associated with substantially lower levels of CRP and IL-6. Trading nuts for potatoes or potato chips was only linked to lower CRP.

“Inflammation is the basis of most age-related disorders,” said Dr. Emilio Ros, director of the Lipid Clinic at Hospital Clinic in Barcelona, Spain, by email.

Inflammation can reduce blood flow to the heart and brain and cause heart attacks and strokes, said Ros, who was not involved in the study. He added that inflammation is also linked to dementia, kidney disease, bowel problems and other common diseases.

“Reducing inflammation will prevent or delay the onset of all these conditions,” Ros said.

Less-processed nuts may be more effective, noted Ros, who studies nuts and inflammation. “Importantly, when possible, nuts should be consumed as the raw and unpeeled product, as the skin, which is lost in roasting, is very rich in antioxidants,” he said.

“There may be a concern that frequent nut consumption can result in weight gain,” Bao said, however, eating nuts is actually linked to lower weight gain and less risk of obesity.

“A handful of nuts a day or substituting nuts for meat or refined grains is associated with less inflammation,” Bao said.

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