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Codex 2003
What Really Happened?

The Codex Committee on Nutrition and Food for Special Dietary Uses (Codex for short) met in Bonn this year from 3-7 November, to progress their proposals to ban information and health-related messages concerning vitamins and minerals and also to reduce the maximum permitted amounts of these essential nutrients to levels at which they would no longer be effective.

Codex has been trying for the last seven years to introduce these banning regulations, but thanks to the combined protests of thousands of people from the health movement behind Dr. Matthias Rath and the Dr. Rath Health Foundation, they have been prevented from carrying out their unethical plans.

Codex has been infiltrated by pharma-cartel interests, whose influence extends beyond the official delegations and into some of the so-called natural health freedom organisations who have observer status at the Codex meetings. Some of these organisations were already celebrating victory before the Codex meeting ended, based upon flawed analysis of the proceedings. Such claims subsequently proved to be unrealistic, indicating the level of influence that the pharma interests wield within these organisations.

The Dr. Rath Health Foundation remains one of the few truly independent, natural health promoting organisations that actively participate in public health policy debates worldwide and is thus able to provide clear, objective and accurate analysis of the events at the 2003 Codex meeting.

So what really happened?

The Proposed Draft Guidelines for Vitamin and Mineral Food Supplements were advanced to Step 5 of an 8-step process at the 2003 session, after a high level of agreement amongst the delegations on most of the sections. Draft proposals can be adopted as full Guidelines at step 6 in this process, if there is unanimous agreement within the Codex committee. Far from declaring victory therefore, continued vigilance and action is necessary. The fight goes on.

The most significant aspects of the current Codex proposals are as follows:

The South African delegation's bold attempt to introduce positive support for natural health therapies into the Codex machinery was thwarted by the committee. South Africa proposed that Codex should highlight the role vitamins and minerals play in the prevention of chronic diseases, as laid out in the WHO's report Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases This expert consultation document clearly confirms that nutritional intervention can reduce the incidence of diabetes, heart attacks, high blood pressure and many other chronic diseases that have reached epidemic proportions worlwide.
Ignoring the recommendations of its own parent body (the WHO) the Codex committee chose to ignore the South African proposals.
The South African delegation has, however, been asked to coordinate a working group that will develop proposals for new and revised nutrient reference values (figures for average daily intake requirements amongst normal populations - NRV's for short) that may form part of the establishment of the upper safe levels limits (see below). The inclusion of NRV's in this process will be debated again at the next Codex meeting in 2004.
Comment : We should all applaud the excellent work done by South Africa and continue to give their delegation and the other delegations supporting their position, all the help and support they need to ensure that the level of scientific knowledge and evidence that goes into the setting of NRV's truly reflects the reality that vitamins, minerals and other natural substances can prevent common diseases, as set out in Dr. Rath's declaration at the World Summit in 2002 entitled, "Health For All by the Year 2020"

The Codex committee spent so long arguing about other matters on their agenda that they ran out time to consider the proposals on health claims. This debate has therefore been postponed until next year.
Comment : The extra time that this development offers the health freedom movement to continue the fight against Codex should not be wasted.

The idea that recommended daily allowances (RDA's) should form the upper limits for vitamin and mineral dosage levels has finally been rejected by the Codex committee.
Comment : A positive move for natural health. RDA's represent merely the minimum daily intake level for vitamins and minerals for the avoidance of deficiency disease problems and the idea that RDA's should form the upper limits for these nutrients has always been ridiculous.

The Codex committee decided that their vitamin and mineral Guidelines will apply in jurisdictions that regulate these supplements as foods, whilst removing the option for national authorities to make a regulatory choice between food and drug law for regulation of these supplements.
Comment : This may indicate that national authorities that currently regulate these products as drugs will continue to be able to do so. Countries will not however be able to change regulatory approaches for supplements once these Guidelines are enacted. Yet another good reason to continue the battle to protect free access to essential vitamins and minerals worldwide.

The sources of vitamin and minerals to be used in supplementary products should be safe and bio available forms as laid down by FAO/WHO standards or other recognized international or national standards.
Comment : The possibility that this provision may lead to arbitrary restrictions on the available sources, as was the case with the provisions of the EU's Food Supplements Directive, cannot be discounted.

The influence of the EU within Codex has grown measurably this year and their delegation is trying forcefully to persuade Codex to adopt the framework for vitamin and mineral regulation, already laid down in Europe, on a worldwide basis.
Comment : The EU will become a full member of Codex in 2004, which makes support for and implementation of the Dr. Rath Health Foundation EU-Referendum goals more important than ever. The EU will act on behalf of 25 countries in next year's Codex meeting.

The maximum daily dosage level for vitamins and minerals is to be set by reference to upper safe levels established by scientific risk assessment.
Comment : This was the section upon which most of the victory for health freedom' claims were based. At first sight, the abandonment of reference to RDA levels in setting upper limits for vitamins and minerals seems to be a victory. In reality, the proposed terms upon which upper safe limits may be set are open to wide interpretation and manipulation and could still result in arbitrarily low upper limits that are not much better than RDA levels.

This approach is being pioneered by the Australian delegation who will probably be asked to chair the committee responsible for setting upper safe limits, if this section is agreed. It is therefore important to know that Australia already regulates vitamin and mineral supplements as drugs and not as foods.
There is no scientific justification for any upper limits to be set for vitamin and mineral intake, but if we do have to have them, let them be based on true science and real observed effects. The role of South Africa (see earlier comments) will be pivotal here.

Conclusions : The influence of the health freedom movement and the work of the South African delegation to Codex have brought about a number of victories for natural health freedom this year. At the same time, whilst some completely absurd ideas like using RDA levels as upper limits have finally been removed, this year's Codex meeting has accelerated the move toward overall proposals that may have a very damaging effect on the availability of essential vitamins and minerals worldwide in the future.

It is therefore of paramount importance that all those interested in preventing free access to these vital substances from being compromised remain vigilant and engaged in the fight. The Dr. Rath Health Foundation is leading the continued resistance to Codex plans and calls for a united effort in pursuing the goal of vitamin freedom for all.

We have won some skirmishes but the main battle goes on!

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