We thought it was time to reacquaint you with the Irish Health Trade Association. No doubt you will have heard about us if you have a presence on the Irish market, which is very vibrant, faring well and attracting new players, despite facing restrictive challenges along the way.

Just like our UK neighbours, the Irish market comes under the remit of what seems to be an endless array of EU legislative initiatives, none of which are user-friendly, none are well-fitting and few are welcomed by industry.

At national level, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) strive to regulate and implement policy governing our sector. Here, the interpretations and focus can differ to those of UK regulators.

Similarly, in relation to VAT on food supplements, the Irish and UK situations differ. In Ireland, many products carry a zero per cent accommodation, however, changes are rapidly being applied, eroding the numbers of products now being accommodated. If you are placing a product on the Irish market, I would advise you to keep up-to-date on VAT changes. This vibrant Irish market needs an energetic and astute caretaker who will keep vigilant on the issues that can impede or assist the development of our industry. The Irish Health Trade Association has worked tirelessly for many years, engaging proactively and reactively at national and EU level and we are recognised by stakeholders and legislators as a responsible industry representative.

Through our interactions over the years, we have forged cooperative links with the HPRA and we have established a cordial rapport. This has enabled us to engage in meaningful consultations that benefit our members. Our engagements have been varied – from small, annoying problems to very large, critical issues, which prove that working with the backing of our association brings tangible benefit to our members. One success of our collaboration was the Herbal Medicines Information Seminar, which was held in January. By the time this article comes to print, we will have had an Information Session for our members with the FSAI, covering topical regulatory issues, the FSAI thoughts on the BELFRIT listing and on the traditional use claims facility.

As the IHTA representative chairs the European Federation of Associations of Health Product Manufacturers (EHPM) Botanicals Working Group, this is a topic of special interest to us. Closer to home, we have identified practical problems with the FSAI food supplement notification process, which need to be resolved. We are a neat and tidy organisation here at the IHTA, a small enough team that punches well above its weight. We have had the good fortune over the years of working as a united and focused unit and our achievements have been gained by discreet perseverance and a well-informed team at the helm. Our strength is that we listen to our members and we involve our members. As the wise old saying goes, ‘together we stand, divided we fall’.