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Censorship and Suppression in the Health Food Industry

In the holistic health paradigm, we believe that the body holds a divine intelligence. All disease is the body’s way of communicating to us that something is out of balance, and giving us an opportunity to put it right before more serious issues occur. Within this paradigm, the more we step out of the body’s way and allow the natural self-regulating mechanisms to come into play, the more profound the healing.

Modern Western medicine takes a different approach. Their model is that if a person is ill, they are broken, and something needs fixing. It is an interventionist approach that comes in with specific solutions, and ignores the holism of the body.

The laws in Europe around health are created from the standpoint of the Western pharmaceutical model. They are very strict laws, which can involve heavy fines and even closure of business for those who are found to be breaking them.

Most recently, we have found that as it becomes ever harder for governmental bodies to enforce these regulations on the Internet, it is payment providers that have taken over the role of policing health claims. A payment provider is able to cut off access to your funds with no notice, and withold your ability to take payments for whatever reasons they choose. These reasons do not have to be within the law, for example, after a long and arduous campaign, CBD products were finally legalised within the UK and Europe. Only for small businesses to find that none of the main payment providers are willing to allow ecommerce sites to take payments on CBD items, so we had to remove them all from sale again.

Brexit also dealt a severe blow to our business. Although theoretically, it is still possible to import and export organic foods in and out of the UK, it is not a realistic option in post-Brexit trade. The huge extra burden of paperwork and costs required for organic products has severely hampered our ability to import, especially from the USA, and export to our European customers. The upshot is the restriction of availability of organic products in the UK and Europe.

There are three laws particularly, that severely limit the information that we are allowed to share with you and the products that we are allowed to sell.

The Novel Foods Law means that a food cannot be sold in Europe unless there is evidence to prove that it has been consumed here since before 1997. Once a food is deemed “Novel”, the onus is on the producer to provide evidence and pay a six figure sum in order to have their food deemed no longer novel. One example is Chia, which was a novel food until 2009, when it became approved as an ingredient in baked goods. This is why chia has become so popular in the last decade; before that it was illegal. Another example is Mesquite: although it has been consumed in Europe as a seasoning for decades (who remembers Salsa & Mesquite Kettle Chips!), as it is deemed a novel food, and no-one has yet found the time or funds to get it approved, it is currently illegal to sell it in Europe. Curiously, GMO foods are not considered novel foods, and are exempt from this legislation.

The Traditional Herbal Medicines Products Directive was passed in 2013, and effectively bans most traditional herbs from sale in Europe. To be legal, a herb has to be approved, and again this is a costly and time-consuming procedure which most applicants fail even when they do try. Herbs which have a traditional usage of thousands of years in highly populous countries such as China and India are not allowed to be sold unless they can pass the scientific models developed for pharmaceutical medicines. A qualified herbal practitioner with a licence is allowed to sell them, but in a health food store it’s technically illegal. There has been some relaxation in recent years around traditional usage, but the law has many grey areas which we don’t want to fall foul of. Our Raw Living range of superfoods are all considered legal, but there are many products we had to stop selling when the law came into effect in 2013.

The Natural Health Claims Regulations, also passed in 2013, limit what can be said around natural health. Words such as “benefit”, “health” and “good for you”, even “superfoods”, are illegal. A claim can only be made if it has been proved according to the pharmaceutical model. Many statements that are considered common knowledge eg magnesium is good for joints, vitamin C is good for colds, and water is good for dehydration, have not been approved; 97% of claims are rejected. This is the law that has the most impact on us as a company. Since we started in 2002, we had become a database of superfoods: the website was chock-full of information on every superfood we sold, which was most of them! It was heart-breaking to have to remove that information, and causes us endless frustration that we are not allowed to share more on these foods that we love so much. It is legal to share the information on a blog, or any space where a person is not profiting in any way from sharing the information. It is also legal in the USA. So we suggest researching the wonderful South American, Indian and Chinese herbs that we sell, and maybe falling in love yourself with the incredible intelligence that these plants hold.

For now, please excuse the brevity of the information on so many of the products, and we look forward to the time when more awareness is raised around the censorship and suppression we face in the health food industry, and the laws begin to change.