agmThe Irish Health Trade Association (IHTA) Chair, Phil Costigan, discusses the future of the industry in Health Food Business Trade Magazine – June 2016.

We pose the important questions, we seek the answers, information is power and informed decisions are wise decisions.

At the recent IHTA AGM, which took place in Dublin on April 13, members and invited guests were asked to ponder on the questions:

  • Where might industry be in five years’ time?
  • What are the opportunities that can lead to broadening the market place?

An impressive turn-out of IHTA member companies, together with invited guests, had the opportunity to participate in a very informative and interestingly focused event. While it is important to have a platform to present where our focus is, what the challenges are and how we plan to address them, it is equally important that key industry representatives hear our voice.

We were delighted, therefore, that invited guests included representatives from our regulatory authorities, the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), industry partners, the Irish Association of Health Stores (IAHS), representatives from the Irish Codex Advisory Committee (ICAC) and public relations/communications firm, Hume Brophy.

Following on from the business of the day, presentations were given by three guest speakers:

  • Dr Jayne Crowe, Director of Human Products Authorisation and Registration at the HPRA.
  • Patrick Ahern, Director General, European Federation of Associations of Health product Manufacturers (EHPM).
  • Jonathan Griffith, IHTA and Chair of EHPM Botanical Working Group.

In her presentation, Dr Crowe provided an overview of the HPRA Strategic Plan 2016 to 2020, which expects to deliver an optimised regulatory system that will support innovation and promote onsite expertise and lead to better informed users having access to health products.

The HPRA acknowledge the ongoing challenges faced by industry in relation to the classification of herbal medicines, increasingly focused on the food supplement/herbal medicine interface. The HPRA is currently developing guidance in this area and will keep the IHTA updated on the work in progress. Adding to this, the HPRA Retailers Guide to selling herbal products is being progressed.

In his presentation, Patrick Ahern identified the key policy areas pivotal to industry, which includes:

  • Pushing for full application of mutual recognition, seeking a more pragmatic approach to health claims and presubmission meetings.
  • Continuing to track FIC implementation and seeking greater clarity from the EC on interpretation issues.
  • Promoting a workable solution for probiotics and continuing to highlight unfair competition and safety issues linked to the internet sale of food supplements from third countries.

Patrick stressed the need for industry partners to share useful information, which is a wise course of action to ensure that valuable data is fittingly and timely imparted to support the European Federation’s interventions and interactions with EU decision makers.

The third presentation, on botanical health claims, was delivered by Jonathan Griffith. This is currently a work in progress and not a policy document. EHPM is proposing a solution involving a three-step approach:

  • Upgrade management of quality assurance.
  • Implement new safety evaluation procedures.
  • Alternative approach for botanical health claims that takes traditional use into account.

Taking stock of all the regulatory confines pertaining to our industry sector, it was gratifying to hear the affirmative and progressive action being undertaking by enthused partners, which will pave the way forward for the continued growth and vibrancy of the industry.

The IHTA relies on the continued support of members who are fortunate to have a focused dedicated team working for their benefit. Companies who supply goods to the national market are invited to join our committed team. United we have strength.