In a regular column for Health Food Business , the IHTA’s Phil Costigan explains that the organisation recognises the importance of working together to protect consumer choice.

November has arrived, the Festival of Samhain, marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter has passed. Our Celtic ancestors believed that as Samhain was the division of the year between the lighter half “samhradh” (summer) and the darker half “geimhreadh” (winter), then the boundary between this world and the otherworld was fragile thus allowing spirits to pass through.

While we no longer live in such a magical and mystical world, nonetheless here at the Irish Health Trade Association (IHTA), our members endeavour to work together in cooperation and goodwill crafting a partnership to care-take the environment that promotes and supports the wellness of all people in Ireland. We do this by ensuring they have access to natural health products of their choice that are safe, efficacious and of high quality.

Regular readers of this column will know that for some time now, a primary focus of the IHTA has been interactions with Revenue relating to the application of VAT on food supplements. The sharing of information and working together by key member companies provided a valuable frame of reference which is assisting us in our dealings with Revenue, a collaboration which has benefit to all members of the IHTA. While much work has been done our efforts must continue in seeking a satisfactory solution.

“The IHTA Submission on the Definition of Food and Related Guidance in the Context of the Value Added Tax Consolidation Act 2010 (VATCA 2010)” is a fine document clearly defining the industry position on the status of food supplements and how they should be treated under VAT law.

This document was submitted to Revenue in early September.

vitamin D BoardRecognising that we must also endeavour to work well with others, our recent collaboration with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) included our representation on the FSAI Vitamin D Working Group. Currently our national health policy, advices parents and caregivers to give infants (0-12months) a 5μg vitamin D only supplement daily, regardless of whether the infant is being breastfed or formula fed. Following on from this, the FSAI established a Working Group consisting of experts in the area of vitamin D infant nutrition to develop criteria for listing food supplements suitable for providing 5μg vitamin D only to infants in Ireland. These discussions have not yet reached conclusion.

Readers may also be interested in a recent new Guide published by the FSAI regarding online sales. The Guide sets out the information that must be provided to consumers by food businesses that promote or sell food online via websites or social media. It is the first national guide that specifies what a business must do to comply with the law to ensure that consumers get the same information online, before making a purchase, as they would if they bought the product in a store.

food label smallThe legislation around labelling, advertising, health claims, nutrition claims and allergen declarations need to apply to foods sold online, as well as over the counter. We see this as a positive development, now that this guide makes it clear, that if a food business sells or advertises food online, they are responsible for the food information provided to their customer and must comply with relevant food law.

As a responsible stakeholder in the natural health industry, the IHTA welcomes this initiative by the FSAI. Far too often, focus on compliance checks has been with well-established business operators so it is welcome to see our national regulators broadening the scope of their vigilance.

The IHTA has always advocated that health conscious consumers are entitled to have easy access to natural health products that are safe, efficacious and of high quality. As the national industry trade body, we continue to work together and with others to ensure these consumers continue to have that choice.

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