In this edition of Health Food Business, Phil Costigan, General Secretary of the Irish Health Trade Association (IHTA), reveals some exciting plans for 2017.
It is etched in our psyche, March 29, 2017, an historic date for our UK neighbours, and here in Ireland on that day, we were blessed with a lovely blue sky and warm sunshine. The date was also a day when invited guests and member company representatives came together for the IHTA Annual General Meeting held in Dublin. It was a full house on the day, where IHTA members had the opportunity not only to chat and mingle with fellow association members but to engage also with delegates from the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and the Health Service Executive (HSE).
Many readers will already know that the IHTA is a small, enthusiastic trade association that, despite its size, has success in achieving its objectives. So on March 29, we presented our members with a summary of the past year’s activity and provided, in addition, guest presentations of interest to all present. Suppliers of food supplements to the Irish market cannot at this stage be unaware of the changes in policy of Revenue in the application of standard VAT to food supplements that historically enjoyed zero per cent rating. Dealing with this disturbing development has been a major focus of the IHTA for the last few years so it was no surprise that an update on this issue was the favoured topic of interest to members present.
Since this change in practice by Revenue has not been occasioned by any change in legislation, we provided a summary on the advices received from our VAT consultants and our legal advisers and we confirmed that currently for the protection and benefit of IHTA members, we continue to be in consultation and engagement with Revenue on the subject.
For several years also, the IHTA has continued to forge strong consultative links with our national regulators and on the 29th, we were very pleased to have a representative from the Health Service Executive (HSE) deliver a talk on ‘What to Inspect during an Inspection’? This topic covered the assessment of compliance with food legislation, the inspection process of premises and equipment, sampling and analysis of food including food ingredients, and inspection and analysis of food labelling. Safety and quality will always be topics of interest to a responsible industry and attendees present were also provided with a brief overview on the work in progress by the European Federation (EHPM) on Quality Agreements in the Food Supplement Supply Chain, which incorporates Managing Food Supplements from Farm to Fork. Readers will know that for a long number of years, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has failed to set upper safe levels (USLs) for food supplements, the primary reason for this being lack of agreement among member states. Consequently, countries like Ireland and the UK have continued with supplying high level vitamins to the market. The major fear is that when this task is complete, the European market will be dosage compromised with the setting of levels lower than currently enjoyed. A benefit of Brexit perhaps for our UK neighbours not to follow suit, should this occur.
On March 29, Dr Mary Flynn, FSAI, Chief Specialist Public Health Nutrition, provided a brief overview on the work being done by the FSAI Scientific Committee on the Safe Micronutrient Levels Report. It is no surprise that our national authority seems to be continuing with a cautious approach to nutrient levels. It is expected to have the report complete by the end of the summer this year.
An update was also provided on the progress of work undertaken by the Vitamin D Working Group, which includes a Draft Guidance Note on the criteria for 5μg vitamin D supplements to be listed as suitable for infants (supporting national policy on vitamin D supplementation of infants in Ireland).
Question: What is the IHTA up to?
Answer: Keeping vigilant on issues impacting on our members’ business interests, coming up with strategy to deal with impacts, listening to our members and working together on areas of common interest.
Phil Costigan is General Secretary of the Irish Health Trade Association (IHTA), which represents the interests of manufacturers, importers and distributors of natural health products in Ireland. The principal aim of the IHTA is to assist member companies in promoting the wellness of all people in Ireland. For more information on the IHTA, visit www.ihta.org