Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals (2003) Safe Upper Levels for Vitamins and Minerals

The final report of the Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals was published in May 2003.

Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals (EVM)

The Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals (EVM) was set up in 1998 to evaluate the safety of all the vitamins and minerals essential to health plus those currently available as food supplements or used in fortified foods. EVM was made up of 11 members including scientists and representatives of consumer organisations and industry.

The group carried out a detailed toxicological review, including thorough risk assessments, with particular reference to safety for long-term use. As part of their drive to make their working methods as open as practically possible, the agenda, minutes, draft scientific reviews of each nutrient, and other working papers from each meeting were made available on this website throughout the process.

Observers attended meetings and comments and data were invited from both individuals and groups. In August 2002, a draft report was published giving all those interested in the work of the committee 12 weeks to comment. There were 103 responses and EVM met in February 2003 to discuss these and finalise the report.

Publication of the final EVM report, which provides invaluable information for health professionals, and is essential reading for the food industry, academics and anyone who takes supplements, completes the work of the EVM.

The report is available below or order a copy of "Safe upper levels for vitamins and minerals: report of the expert group on vitamins and minerals" ISBN 1-904026-11-7 for £19.95 by contacting:

Food Standards Agency Publications on tel 0845 606 0667


Final Report of the EVM

The final report of the Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals has made recommendations on 31 vitamins and minerals.

The EVM has assessed the available evidence on safety, in response to concern over possible risks of taking high doses of vitamins and minerals.The amounts of most vitamins and minerals that people take are not thought to be harmful, but the Agency is now advising the public on what levels of supplements are unlikely to cause any harm.

The Agency is advising people not to take chromium picolinate (see section below for update on this advice since original report) and has consulted on a proposal to ban the use of this form of chromium in the manufacture of food supplements because there is a chance that it could cause cancer. Having 10 mg or less a day of chromium in other forms from food and supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.

Some substances may have irreversible harmful effects if taken for long periods at the highest supplemental doses. These include beta-carotene (especially for smokers and people who have been exposed to asbestos), nicotinic acid, zinc, manganese (especially for older people) and phosphorus.

Levels of vitamin C above 1000 mg a day could cause abdominal pain and diarrhoea. Similarly, high intakes of calcium (above 1500 mg a day) and iron (above 17 mg a day) may result in similar symptoms in some people. However, these symptoms should disappear once people stop taking the supplements.

The Agency is also re-emphasising its advice that people should not take more than 10 mg a day of vitamin B6 from food supplements unless acting on medical advice. Taking large amounts for a long time can lead to a loss of feeling in the arms and legs. Generally these symptoms are reversible but in a few cases the effect has been irreversible.

Updated advice
Since this report was published the Food Standards Agency has revised its advice on the safety of chromium picolinate supplements. It is no longer advising people to avoid this type of chromium. Please read the updated advice below.
Chromium picolinate supplements updated advice