Codex Alimentarius Q&A

Codex Alimentarius Q&A                           Back to Codex Alimentarius »

What is Codex?
What are the key parties that influence decisions in the Codex process?
Will Codex affect us in the United States or would it apply only to other countries?
How will Codex attempt to limit our access to higher, therapeutic dosages of nutrients?
Is Codex a real or imagined threat to our ability to access high quality therapeutic dietary supplements in the United States?
When will Codex be implemented?
What is AAHF doing to protect U.S. citizens and populations worldwide from the threat of Codex?
What influence can the consumer have on the Codex process?


Will Codex affect us in the United States or would it apply only to other countries?
Codex guidelines and standards are already implemented in the U.S. in many areas of the food trade. For example, the Codex organic standards, which many would view as a watered down `version` of a proper, sustainable, ecologically-based organic approach to agriculture, have already been accepted in the U.S. and allow some of the biggest food retailers in the U.S. to trade in internationally sourced, low cost, certified organic food which is neither as good for the environment nor as good for health as the real thing. When it comes to supplements, there is a new guideline, the Codex Guideline on Vitamin and Mineral Food Supplements, that has been passed and is awaiting fine tuning before coming into effect in around 2012 or 2013.
Codex standards are officially recognized international guidelines for allegedly ensuring food safety and fair trade practices. With the goal of international harmonization of food standards largely for the benefit of transnational corporations, Codex member countries are encouraged to adopt Codex guidelines or standards at the national level.
While only those countries that adopt Codex guidelines are subject to them on the national level, they guide countless countries that do adopt them. In today’s interdependent world of trade, the U.S. is undoubtedly impacted by Codex on many levels.
For example, Codex standards have become reference texts used by the WTO for the settlement of international trade disputes and are increasingly being used as baseline, reference food standards for international trade. National governments are able to set their own food standards at a higher level than Codex. But they cannot demand that food imports meet higher standards than Codex, unless it can be justified to the WTO.
In one of ANH-USA’s main areas of focus regarding Codex, dietary supplements, the FDA says that they will develop a two-tiered system: 1) Higher dose levels in the United States; and 2) Lower dose levels that the U.S. would comply with for export. Note, however, that U.S. delegations have been instrumental in shaping significant Codex guidelines, including those relating to genetically modified food (GM), food irradiation, and most recently vitamin and mineral dietary supplements. The USFDA has a proven anti-supplement track record. The Agency’s pro drug agenda leads it to ignore First Amendment protections and censor the communication of valid scientific information about the health benefits of supplements.
It remains to be seen whether the FDA will pursue adoption of Codex guidelines on dietary supplements. But three things are clear: 1) The U.S. delegation at Codex appears to be enthusiastically supporting highly restrictive approaches to the guidelines which are directly in line with those of draconian regimes such as that represented by the European Commission; 2) FDA actions have eroded consumer access to dietary supplements; and 3) Currently, it appears that Codex dietary supplement guidelines will fall directly in line with FDA’s, Health Canada’s and the European Commission’s anti-supplement stance.
How will Codex attempt to limit our access to higher, therapeutic dosages of nutrients? Back to top »
Unfortunately, Codex is in the process of codifying global supplement potency limits, which are far below current standards in the U.S. They are even well beneath those currently allowed in more liberal European countries, like the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden and Ireland. Rather cleverly, Codex is at the moment confining itself to the principles to be used to develop these proposed ‘maximum safe levels’, while they are avoiding getting into the generation of actual numbers that would probably cause opposition in some quarters. However, if one looks at Europe, one can see much more clearly what happens if you use the risk assessment and management principles under consideration to generate actual values. Using the methods currently being built into European guidelines, the maximum limit for beta carotene would be the amount found in half a large carrot, while that for selenium would be no more than what is typically available in one third of a Brazil nut! European officials do not, however, follow this to its illogical limit and argue that eating several carrots or Brazil nuts is dangerous.
These ridiculously low levels result from an excessively precautionary model which is based on applying massive ‘uncertainty factors’ to the most ‘toxic’ (usually synthetic) form of a nutrient. Worse still, the highest mean dietary intakes (that consumed by the top 2.5% of the population) are subtracted from these already low levels—and are then applied to all nutrients, regardless of form! This system reduces all maximum dosages to levels that are beneath those required for any therapeutic benefit. It effectively provides the basis for what we believe will increasingly be regarded—assuming the process is not altered—as an international borderline between foods and medicines. This means that wherever Codex guidelines are implemented into law, the only way to get a therapeutic dosage to market is to go through a full drugs regime. This would obviously be cost prohibitive for most manufacturers and suppliers and would amount to the ‘knee-capping’ of nutrition-based integrative or functional medicine.
The Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses (CCNFSDU), the key Codex committee concerned with supplements, is also developing Nutrient Reference Values for international application. These are akin to Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) for all people in the world, regardless of their nutritional or health status. They are based on a very limited perspective of the benefits of nutrients and do not factor in any of the science on which integrative, functional or ecological medicine principles are based. Put simply, the NRV approach is about averages and not individuals. It is about selective use of science, and apparently arbitrary avoidance of relevant, high quality science. There is no consideration of clinical experience or any of the principles of preventative medicine based on nutrition. The levels being considered for NRVs are even beneath those being considered as ‘maximum safe levels’ so the whole process will serve to dumb down those levels perceived as necessary or beneficial for optimum human health.
Back to top »