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.
INTERVENTIONS & COMMMENT
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
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
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
- 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,
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
The meeting was then closed for the day!
CONCLUSIONS & NEXT STEPS
- 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.