Herbs, Spices and Trading Standards

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The Pepperer
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Herbs, Spices and Trading Standards

Postby The Pepperer » Wed Apr 26, 2006 10:42 am

I've been advised by one of my suppliers, that some of the herbs and spices that I sell could be catagorised as medicinal products (noteably Grains of Paradise!), and as such may be covered by particular legistation with regard to presentation, sale and labeling. Does anybody have any experience in this area?

I've contacted my local Trading Standards division, who (when I finaly got through), appear to be as ignorant as I am.



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sally
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Postby sally » Wed Apr 26, 2006 11:05 am

I believe, and its only a belief so do check further, that as long as you are selling it labelled as if for culinary purposes only, and offer no written information about how it might be used otherwise, then you only need to lable it as per a culinary product.

Its a bit like with my tallow/oil soap, its certified as a body soap (cosmetic regulations), and though I actually sell most of it to people who want to use it in their laundry or ffor feltmaking, if I put that on the label it would need a completely new set of certification and different labelling. So I sell it as suitable for personal washing, and what the buyer chooses to use it for then is up to them.

Take it a step further, the spice shelf at the supermarket sells many potentially medicinal herbs, but nowhere on any of their labelling will it say more than 'goes well with pork' or whatever. Certainly with my small range of herbs I label as herbs/spices, or dyes/pigments and leave it at that. (label shows weights, botanical identification and common name, plus my details as the supplier). I believe I fit the regulations as I understood them. (though just thought, probably need a best before date on the herbs/spices don't I?)

Would be interested to hear if anyone can elaborate /refine the above further.



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sally
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Postby sally » Wed Apr 26, 2006 11:07 am

oh yes, you could always take your cue from the way your supplier labels the bulk packages? Thay will need to fit regulations, so if its on their label, it may need to be on yours.



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Postby The Pepperer » Wed Apr 26, 2006 11:25 am

Thanks for this Sally, I think I've got the labeling of culinary herbs, and spices sorted; with common name, Latin name and price per 10g for when I sell loose at markets, as well as country of origin, best before and batch number when we sell pre-packed over the internet.

On you point about written information; when I display the herbs & spices at markets, I have a small information board fo each, giving some details of their use and history. For most this just describes culinary use, but for other such Fennel or Dill, I also describe their traditional use in infusions to aid digestion. does this count as a "medicinal claim" I wonder?

It would seem a real pity to have to remove detail about the history of these herbs & spices simply because they have in the past be used in this way.



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Postby sally » Wed Apr 26, 2006 12:52 pm

I think that could count as a medical claim, but by simply changing your phrasing to 'has traditionally been used for' and adding a very very clear statement in the leaflet that all information is offered for historical interest value only, and anyone feeling a herb may be of benefit to them should consult a medically qualified herbal practiotioner before preparing any remedies, that should demonstrate that you are not trying to sell remedies, just culinary herbs that happen to have an interesting history.



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Postby The Pepperer » Wed Apr 26, 2006 1:18 pm

I've composed a small "bottom-covering" statement, which I'll display prominently at markets, it runs as follows....

"Any medicinal effects attributed to these Herbs and Spices have arisen from their long standing traditional use.

The Pepperers Guild cannot provide specific advice on the medical use of these products, and any indication is provided purely to give historical context.

You should always inform your GP of any self treatment before taking any other prescribed medication."

So hopefully I'll be OK. Thanks for all the advice, and hope to see you at one (or more!) of this seasons events.



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Postby Guest » Wed Apr 26, 2006 2:33 pm

If you are selling herbs/spices that are generally recognised, in the form in which you are selling them (i.e., not capsules or tablets etc, or any other form that is obviously not intended for food use) as for food use, then you don't need a disclaimer if medicinal uses are not mentioned at all. (See your local supermarket spice rack.)

However, once you start mentioning medicinal uses at all, you start running into potential difficulties. The best place to put your disclaimer is in the same place as the mention of medicinal uses - i.e., your information leaflet. That way, the historical medicinal uses and your disclaimer can't get separated. You may also wish to consider the content of the leaflet - don't make it too specific. "Ginger has been used to treat nausea" would be OK, "Ginger at a dose of X taken Y times a day has been used to treat nausea" would definitely be pushing it a bit.

If I may suggest a few alterations, it may be a good idea to dissociate yourself completely from the medicinal side of things. Such as:

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

HISTORICAL USES OF GINGER

texttextblahblahblah... etc

Disclaimer:
THIS PRODUCT IS SOLD FOR FOOD USE ONLY AND SHOULD NOT BE USED FOR MEDICINAL PURPOSES.

ANY MEDICINAL USES QUOTED IN THIS INFORMATION LEAFLET ARE BASED PURELY ON HISTORICAL SOURCES, AND THEREFORE MAY NOT HAVE ANY SCIENTIFIC BASIS.

IF YOU REQUIRE ADVICE OR INFORMATION REGARDING THE MEDICINAL USE OF HERBS OR SPICES YOU SHOULD CONSULT YOUR PHARMACIST OR G.P.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The title states that you are talking about the historical uses of ginger, not present uses, which puts people in the right frame of mind.

The disclaimer further states:
b) your intent in selling your product
b) that the information in your leaflets should not be relied upon for medicinal use and
c) tells people where to go if they require that type of information

I would steer away from any implication that your products could, or should, be used medicinally at all, even without your explicit permission.

For the weirder herbs/spices - another issue - you might want to look at the Food Standards Agency's website (www.food.gov.uk) and the new legislation regarding Novel Foods. [/i]



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The Pepperer
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Postby The Pepperer » Wed Apr 26, 2006 3:27 pm

Sticking a large scary disclaimer on every board would be painful, and I suspect would risk worring those people who, for instance; want to buy some Mint for their sunday roast, but also make the occasional mint tea.

Reading between the lines it would seem that most single herbs, are seen as having both medicinal and culinary application, and that it is the context in which it is sold that pushes it into one or other group.

This being the case, seemingly any mention of a medical application would probably tip me into the "medicinal" camp, and thus I would be wise to remove all reference to medicinal use from by information boards.

Sad, but I guess its what I need to do, and I assume that this is also the reason why there is never any written information about each herb or spice, when you by your korean ginseng or whatever from Holland & Barrat.

I must admit I have hitherto managed to stay out of the "pounds & ounces, little England, bloody European parliment" mindset, but sometimes....... :x

Now, where's that copy of the "Daily Mail" I was reading.....



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Postby Guest » Wed Apr 26, 2006 5:21 pm

It would be a pity to leave out valuable and interesting information regarding your wares. It doesn't have to be a large and scary disclaimer - you can do a lot with punctuation and a change in phrasing.

For instance, take off the capitals and change the wording just a bit:

"This product is sold for food use only and should not be used for medicinal purposes. The medicinal uses on this board were researched using historical sources only, and therefore might not have any scientific basis. If you are interested in using herbs or spices for medicinal purposes, you should consult your pharmacist or G.P."

The MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority) are the people who regulate medicines and do the prosecution of anyone who needs prosecuting under the Medicines Act etc. Their guidance "A guide to what is a medicinal product" is at

http://www.mhra.gov.uk/home/groups/comm ... 007544.pdf

and is quite interesting. However, it doesn't precisely answer your question. Also look at:

http://www.mhra.gov.uk/home/idcplg?IdcS ... &nodeId=91

which has information on borderline products (which includes things like spices) which may have a culinary and a medicinal use, and has links to information regarding how the MHRA decides which is the dominant use and therefore whether to classify a substance as a medicinal product or a food.

Your herbs/spices are probably mostly OK on the 'pharmacological' end, unless they're ones that are generally recognised as having a modern medicinal use in the UK. It's the 'intent' end that might be a problem, but
legally speaking, as long as your disclaimer makes it clear that you are not selling your products for any medicinal purpose, then you are highly unlikely to have any problems.

If in doubt, telephone the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority) on 020 7084 2000. They are nice, helpful people and should be able to advise you on exact wording if necessary.

J L Smith
MRPharmS




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