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Codex Session Turned Into "Farce"!

Leaked Industry Report Confirms Victory for Health Freedom

Currently a leaked industry briefing from an organization representing multinational corporations in the health business is circulating the Internet. As participants in the latest Codex Alimentarius meeting they witnessed the defeat of pharmaceutical interests within the Codex Commission. In a detailed report they inform their member corporations of the "farce" the Codex meeting turned into after the South African delegation brought forward its historic proposal. The report gives deep insight into how the international grassroots movement has won an important victory against the interests of multinational pharmaceutical corporations and their attempt to suppress true health information on natural therapies worldwide.

Quotes From The Report:


The Nutrition Committee of Codex normally meets from Monday-Wednesday, has a rest day for the drafting of the report of the meeting on the Thursday, and then has a discussion to adopt the report on the Friday. By 19.30 on the Wednesday evening, agenda item 5 of the 10 point agenda was still being discussed. It had been emphasized on a number of occasions to the Chairman of the meeting, Professor Rolf Grossklaus, that he had to ensure there was some time for discussion of the remaining agenda points, particularly item 6 which is the vitamin and mineral Guidelines. At 16.00 on the Wednesday we met again with the Chairman to apply pressure for our issue to be taken seriously and, in view of the lack of time, for discussion to only focus on maximum levels and paragraph 5.9 which deals with the requirement for consumers to consult health professionals before buying/using products. We specifically recommended that he did not cover the preamble to the Guidelines which have historically taken up hours of often pointless discussion time. He responded that he had a simple strategy based on risk assessment and our issue would be discussed at 18.00.

At 19.00 we were still discussing baby foods and a number of delegations (particularly the US) demanded to know what the Chairman’s strategy was for dealing with the remaining points. The answer was unclear and the discussion continued on baby foods. At 19.30, the Chairman realized that he was running out of time and therefore moved on to the vitamin and mineral supplement Guidelines.


The Chairman started the meeting by indicating that in view of the decision taken on Monday regarding risk assessment being the basis for the setting of upper levels and the fact that the Codex measure is a Guideline not a standard, it should be possible to move forward fast. He then allowed discussion on the Guideline to start.

South Africa made a powerful intervention on the need for countries to recognize the importance of supplements, referring to the American Journal of Medicine article in which it is recommended that all adults should take a multivitamin. This intervention was followed by applause by some in the meeting. Unfortunately, although the applause was completely justified it reduced the impact of the input, giving the perception that South Africa was making a speech for the supplement industry rather than communicating the position of the South African government.

The EU then requested a change in the name of the Guidelines from Vitamin and Mineral Supplements to Vitamin and Mineral Food Supplements. This was not discussed further.

South Africa then proposed a new preamble, approximately as follows:
“People should be encouraged to select a balanced diet from food. However vitamin and mineral supplements are useful in cases where dietary intake of vitamins and minerals is inadequate to either correct nutrient deficiencies to support prevention such as reducing the risk of diseases”. As this text was transposed to the screen at the front of the room, the word “treat” found its way into the text (I still do not know if this is what South Africa really said or not).

With this word on the table which is so closely linked to a medicine, the countries started to line up to state that this is a medicinal term and in no way should be included in the Codex Guidelines. This once again took the discussion away from the positive message about supplements role in health into the food/drug interface discussion.

Obviously frustrated with the direction the discussion was taking, the German delegate stated that the input from South Africa had not been included in their written comments and should therefore not be discussed. The Chairman agreed.

The European Commission suggested that rather than waste time on the preamble the meeting should go straight to the discussion on maximum levels. The Chairman agreed so we left the discussion on the preamble and moved straight to paragraph 3.3.2.

However, before this happened the Chairman made a suggestion to the meeting that we should not try to cover everything on the Wednesday and the meeting should exceptionally reconvene on Thursday. Some Delegates objected to this on the basis that the schedule could not be changed at such a late stage and many of the dietary supplement participants had commitments at the Transatlantic Business Dialogue meeting in Chicago the next day which would exclude them from the meeting. Our position was supported by the European Commission and the Chairman gave the impression that the meeting would not continue the next morning and all the agenda points would be completed by 20.30. The meeting then reverted to discussion on food supplements.

The Chairman stated that there are two options for establishing maximum levels and he made clear his preference for option 2, based on risk assessment. He asked the meeting for their views on the options. One of the following three was supported by those who spoke:

  • Option 1: 100% of RDA
  • Option 2: Risk Assessment based on the text of the EU Directive.
  • Option 2+: Risk Assessment based on the text of the EU Directive but without the inclusion of the words (due account shall be taken of the PRI/RDA).

The positions taken were as follows:

  • In support of option 1 were: Norway, Brazil, Indonesia, Thailand, Benin, Malaysia (although position was qualified), Nigeria.
  • In support of option 2 were: EU (effectively 15 countries), Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Korea and UK.
  • In support of option 2+ were: US, Canada, Switzerland, Peru.

The Chairman acknowledged that a majority of countries support risk assessment but that it did not yet represent a consensus and no change would be made to the Guidelines. This represents probably the best move away from the RDA that we have seen since discussions began in the mid 1990’s. Most encouraging was the fact that Switzerland (who has been an RDA supporter) and Peru were supportive of option 2+.

During the discussions, the newly accredited International Non Governmental Organization (INGO) National Health Federation (a US health freedom group) also took the floor to say that they do not want any regulation on supplements/maximum levels since vitamins are safer than water. The Chairman stopped the speaker during the intervention.

With the clock now reaching almost 20.30 and the time when the interpreters would walk out, the meeting reached a point of total farce.

The Chairman said that the meeting would continue the next day to deal with the remaining issues on the agenda (but not supplements) and asked if that was also the understanding of the meeting. A unanimous ‘no’ came from almost all the 140+ participants left in the room. The Chairman somehow misunderstood this and closed the meeting saying that it would restart the next day. The anger in the meeting from many delegates was tangible.

The meeting was then closed for the day!


  • If you add up the number of countries who spoke for a risk assessment approach to supplements (taking the EU as 15) it now totals 24 to the 7 countries who favour of an RDA-based approach. This is clearly progress. The assessment that Asia and Latin America are priority countries for further work remains correct.
  • With the changes in responsibility in Germany, it is expected that this is the last meeting that Professor Grossklaus will chair. Although he often makes some useful points he is clearly not the right person for this role. For the sake of everybody’s time and money, the reputation of Codex and the Nutrition Committee and for the seriousness of the issues under discussion, change must happen.



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