The conference, planned for October, aims to update participants with the latest stages of important EU rules: the setting of maximum levels for minerals and vitamins and health claims on foods. Botanicals and herbals are an often overlooked sub-category of supplements, although the market in 2006 for traditional herbals in healthcare in Europe was worth €3,252m, according to Euromonitor International. In the past, industry groups like the European Botanical Forum have called for consideration to be given for specific aspects of botanicals to be accepted by the changes proposed in the health claim rules, such as the traditional use of a botanical. A discussion group will be held on the already controversial subject of health and nutrition claims, which will be chaired by Jules Maaten MEP. The European Commission has proposed that any health or nutritional claim on a food product must meet an approved list of wording - which is currently being drawn up by the Commission - and must be backed up with scientific data. To date, this rule has been met with some consternation from the industry, especially in the herbal industry, as the EC has not laid down what it will accept as evidence for long-established herbals, such as cinnamon. Speakers at the AESGP conference will include Basil Mathioudakis, head of unit food law at the European Commission and Albert Fynn, chair of the EFSA scientific panel on dietetic products, nutrition and allergies. Talks will also be held on the setting of maximum levels for vitamins and minerals, which is part of the 2002 Food Supplements Directive. This too has sparked European controversy, as member states have remained at odds with what they will accept as maximum levels. Member states have also differed dramatically on ideas about the best way to proceed. The UK and The Netherlands are traditionally two of the most lenient markets. High dose products account for 12 to 15 per cent of the £220m UK vitamin and mineral market, and the UK industry and would suffer a severe blow if the EU legislation were to proscribe the sale of high dose products. However, the commission has no deadline for when to complete the harmonization process for food supplements and trade unions are not expecting a proposal until next year. An AESGP study earlier this month again reinforced some of the difficulties with unifying mineral levels under a Europe-wide standard. The study showed some EU countries differing radically on their maximum and minimum levels. For example, in Belgium that the maximum levels varied between 1.5 and three times the recommended daily allowance (RDA) with a minimum level of 1.5 per cent RDA. Denmark, for instance, varied on the maximum level from 1.8 to 1300 times RDA, and a higher minimum level of 30 to 33 per cent of RDA. On the other hand, Estonia had no minimum level but a maximum level inline with RDA. An EC orientation paper on the next step is expected to be received by member states by autumn.