Letter to the Clerk of the Committee from
the National Association of Health Stores
We appreciate the opportunity to provide our
comments on EQUAL for the consideration of your Committee, and
hope that the following will be of some interest to you.
We feel that this topic is closely associated
with the ethos of health food stores within the United Kingdom.
Many of these stores have existed for several decades, the first
such type of shop having opened in Birmingham in 1898.
The National Association of Health Stores (NAHS)
was formed in 1931 in order to represent, protect, and support
the natural product retailer within the UK. Members of the NAHS
abide by our Constitution, which defines a health food store as,
a retail outlet, trading from fixed
premises in the United Kingdom, which offers a range of foods,
food supplements, natural herbal and homoeopathic remedies and
other related items aimed at maintaining the health of consumers.
A "Health Food Store" will also educate consumers and
provide information on holistic health care.
The NAHS actively promotes the raising of standards
within the natural products industry, and our eventual aim is
for every member store to be capable of providing service to the
consumer at the level of our Gold Standardthe Diploma in
Health Food Retailing.
Details of this course (and the lesser Certificate
Course) are freely available from the Health Food Training School,
and will be gladly provided for the Committee if so desired.
Our understanding of the EQUAL initiative is
that it originated from a review of Government spending on research,
in order to focus such resources upon projects likely to deliver
real and tangible benefits.
We understand that the initiative was that the
funding system be restructured in order that, when consideration
was given to allocating funds, priority should be given to projects
that are likely to:
1. result in developments that would be of
tangible and marketable benefits to industry, or
2. result in developments that would be of
real benefit in improving the quality of life in the ageing population
of the UK.
We believe that the aims have been a qualified
success, in that research for industry has resulted in a variety
of technological benefits.
However, we have investigated the EQUAL initiative
and have been unable to gather any evidence that demonstrable
progress has been made in this area.
As an Association that represents a retail sector
that already does what it can to extend the quality of people's
lives, we are disappointed in two ways,
1. That we had no knowledge of the EQUAL
initiative until this Committee's inquiry was established. This
has apparently been the first indication to the natural product
retail industry that any such initiative was already (nominally)
2. That no discernible progress with this
initiative has been made in recent years.
We feel that our industry could play a vital
role in EQUAL, as we have widespread access to the type of consumer
that is already interested in this area, and that would be amenable
to taking part in reputable research projects.
The natural products industry, throughout the
world, is replete with expertise in the fields that EQUAL should
be concerned with; heart disease, (osteo)arthritis, cancer, and
other degenerative conditions that destroy the individuals' ability
to live a fit and healthy (but not necessarily longer) life.
We know that you will be provided with adequate
scientific evidence for your considerations, and do not feel that
it is the role of the NAHS to compile such evidence for this Committee.
However, we are most concerned that nothing appears to have been
accomplished during the last decade, and would respectfully suggest
that the UK could do worse than learn from other countries that
have been pursuing the ideals of EQUAL for many years.
We take the liberty of including (as Annex A)
some contact names, addresses and mission statements of well-established
institutions that could provide some valuable insight into the
practical steps that might be taken in this area. Following this
short selection, is a longer list of institute titles that demonstrate
that in certain countries, Government Departments, educational
institutions, and charitable bodies have actively pursued this
area for many years (Annex A(2)).
We welcome your Committee's interest in this
area, and hope that you will recommend the continuance of EQUAL,
but ensure that this area is developed in a meaningful and positive
manner, as has been clearly accomplished in other countries.
7 January 2000