HL Deb 16 March 1994 vol 553 cc229-30

2.39 p.m.

Lord Erroll of Hale asked Her Majesty's Government:

What steps they are taking under the provisions of existing United Kingdom and European Community law to ensure that medicine dosage and food cooking instructions are clearly legible for those with normal eyesight.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege)

My Lords, it is already a requirement of both United Kingdom and European Community law that all labelling of medicinal products and all information required for foods, including cooking instructions, must be easy to understand, clearly legible, indelible and easily visible.

Lord Erroll of Hale

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. However, can she say why the Government do not enforce that legislation?

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, if there is a failure to comply with the requirements in regard to medicinal products, it is up to the Medicines Control Agency to enforce the legislation. With regard to food products, it is for the local authority, through either the trading standards or environmental health departments, to take action.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, can my noble friend suggest, through the Medicines Control Agency, that the expiry date of medicines be printed on the container? That would mean a considerable saving in money for the National Health Service, because people would know whether tablets were still good to be used.

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, that is an excellent suggestion and I will willingly take it up with the Medicines Control Agency.

Lord Elton

My Lords, if it is a long-term date, can my noble friend ask the agency to add the requirement that the label should state what the pills are for so that one can remember?

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, it is already a requirement that the date must be printed on the bottle or the box.

Lord Carter

My Lords, is the Minister aware that, as the requirement to provide information increases alongside the trend in some products to reduce the size of the packaging, the manufacturer is forced to print an increased number of words in a smaller and smaller area? Will the deregulation Bill help with that problem by simplifying the requirements? Is the noble Baroness further aware that a noble Lord showed me only yesterday a bottle of nail varnish, the instructions for which neither of us could read, even when wearing our glasses?

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, I am not an expert in nail varnish. However, when it comes to medicinal products under the new EC directive 92/27, it will be a requirement in future to provide a leaflet with the medicine giving a full explanation of what it is needed for and how it should be taken.

Lord Erroll of Hale

My Lords, can my noble friend say what the Government are doing to enforce those arrangements?

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, when breaches of the regulations occur, then clearly the matter must be taken up with the Medicines Control Agency and the local authority concerned.