Don’t you just love the French?

Leaving Chamonix after the family ski trip we were all talking about just how many shops sold local mountain cheese made from lait cru or raw milk. There has been a massive hullabaloo in America because of the banning of raw milk sales with prosecutions of farmers and retailers. Not so in Europe where the total ban came off in 2004 and basically it is down to member states to allow or restrict raw milk products. Where it is allowed, strict health policies are in place (Annex II Section IX to Regulation (EC) No 853/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 laying down specific hygiene rules for food of animal origin). Many people believe raw milk to be healthier and the EU documentation refers to research showing less asthma, allergies and eczema particularly in children.

Later, the conversation turned to herbs and the EU restrictions.

When we arrived in Ste Maxime sure enough there had been a complete removal from Carrefour’s shelves, where once there had been 60 different herbs on sale – the hole has been filled by mass market slimming powders and ‘detox’ liquids, obviously important, highly beneficial and proven-beyond-all-doubt to be health-giving, unlike those dangerous herbs. That’s the European Directive on Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products in action, (THMPD), I suppose.

The mega-store near St Raphael was the same. That is, until we popped into the spacious in-store pharmacy, which had neither pharmacist nor anybody else serving or on duty. There we found every one of the missing herbs lined up on the shelves. Pick up your medicinal herbs here, put them in your shopping basket and head off to the check out as usual. Not quite what the formulators of the EU directive had in mind, I guess.

The next day I popped into a big specialist pharmacy in St Raphael for some eye drops for my wife. Three ranges of herbs covered a whole wall. And claims of health giving properties – both overall and for specific medicinal herbs – jumped out at you.

So I asked the lady behind the desk about her astragalus, milk thistle and artichoke medicines. Had she heard of the EU directive? A puzzled look presaged the response. “No”

Did she know that retail sales of medicinal herbs were stopped a year ago? The look became more one of ‘you’re crazy’, this time followed by a Gallic shrug.

Then the pharmacist came across to adjudicate on the commotion. I wondered how the EU law might have affected her product range and retail sales.

“Medicinal Herbs?” she whispered quizzically. “But these are just plants”. Another shrug, and off she went.


Readers might like to check out an article on 20 herbs that may help you fight cancer in some way:

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