Vitamin B-6: food or medicine?

BMJ 1998; 317 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.317.7151.92 (Published 11 July 1998) Cite this as: BMJ 1998;317:92

The rules—and the politics—are different

  1. Joe Collier, Reader and consultant in clinical pharmacology
  1. St George's Hospital Medical School, London SW17 0RE

    The recent spat between the House of Commons Agriculture Select Committee and the government's Food Advisory Committee about vitamin B-6 was inevitable.1 The problem started in June 1997 when the Food Advisory Committee, on the advice of the Department of Health's Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products, and the Environment, recommended that vitamin B-6 should be seen either as a food supplement, in which case the daily dose would be limited to 10 mg, or as a medicine, when it could be available in higher doses. The draft regulations, issued in April 1998 with a 26 June deadline for comments, stipulated that over the counter sales of vitamin B-6 from pharmacies should be limited to daily doses of 11-49 mg; for doses of 50 mg and over the vitamin would have to be prescribed. This position was fiercely contested by the Agriculture Select Committee in its report, conveniently published on 23 June. This argued that limiting the daily “food” dose to 10 mg/day was scientifically unsound and infringed individuals' rights to decide what they ate.2

    Whether or not the Food Advisory Committee has got it right—and it probably has—some guidelines were certainly needed. The daily dietary requirement of pyridoxine, …

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