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The Delegate Josef Hasselberger
on the 2001 Codex Meeting

The delegate Josef Hasselberger came outside the entrance to the BgVV building on Monday 26th November, at the beginning of the Codex meeting, to inform the roughly 500 demonstrators outside the building what was going on inside at the Commission:

Interviewer: Herr Hasslberger, what's new, what is going on right now in this building (the BgVV)?

Hasslberger: Good morning. I'm Josef Hasslberger (...)

Josef Hasselberger

I emigrated from Germany to Italy and have lived in Rome for 20 years. I am a member of the Italian delegation but not as an industry member or an official member, but rather as a kind of infiltrator from a consumer association. What is going on in there is actually almost the same as what is happening out here. When introductions were being made, the first words said in greeting were: we are pro-consumer protection.

A lie? Perhaps. I would like to tell you loud and clear (unfolds a letter) that Gerhard Thalheim, the Parliamentary State Secretary for the Federal Ministry of Consumer Protection, Nutrition and Agriculture (Bundesministerium für Verbraucherschutz, Ernährung und Landwirtschaft) has said that before long there will be a unified, consumer-oriented law in the EU governing vitamin products. And consumer protection has a particularly high importance in this respect. What is necessary is that you, that all of us as consumers tell them what we understand by consumer protection.

Consumer protection must not mean that vitamins are restricted to ridiculously small quantities but that the consumer is allowed to take the vitamins needed to stay healthy. (Applause).

Naturally Codex also says that it is a body [appointed] to organise protection from deception in health matters (laughter). You aren't allowed to say things about vitamins that are not scientifically proven. Naturally, though, opinions differ as to what "scientifically proven" means. If there are only a few studies which are in favour of vitamins, or rather, if there are a hundred studies which are favourable to vitamins and to free choice, [showing] that vitamins are effective and promote health (voice from the crowd: "above all they don't make you ill") exactly: above all they don't make you ill - but there are a few studies that cast doubt on it. Consumer protection then latches onto these few studies that cast a little doubt and says: we must protect the consumer from this.

That is why what happened yesterday at the Intercontinental Hotel is so important, with 2,000 people there, and also what is happening here in the rain. It is very important that you are here, that we are here and that we tell them what we want.

Interviewer: Thank you very much. Herr Hasslberger is now going back inside and will represent this point of view in there too.

Hasslberger: So far one still can't tell, but this evening we will certainly know more about what is going on. It seems that a few changes are already under way. A number of countries are already changing their mind on the vitamin issue. Already today I have even heard the German BgVV now saying, as long as the stuff is safe, as long as the stuff isn't harmful, then we must allow the consumer [to take] it.

I'm going back in now. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

After the failure of the meeting from 26th to the 30th November 2001, Codex Alimentarius delegate Josef Hasslberger wrote the following informative and revealing summary:

Hasslberger after the meeting of the Codex Committee in Berlin:

The 23rd meeting of the Codex Committee for Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses has now come to an end. The guideline made next to no progress.

What particularly struck me during these consultations was that hardly any of the official delegates had ever taken a detailed look at the subject matter. Hardly any of them knew what vitamins and minerals are good for. The knowledge of the great majority of them was at best superficial.

For example, dietetic studies do not go beyond the well-known, and happily these days extremely rare, deficiency diseases. These include scurvy (the vitamin C deficiency disease chiefly found in seafarers), beri beri (a vitamin deficiency disease, chiefly of vitamin B1, due to the incorrect preparation of rice) and others, all of which are practically unknown today in this part of the world. Incredibly, professional dieticians are totally ignorant of the preventive and health-promoting effects of high-dose vitamins.

As a result we also find that although Professor Rolf Grossklaus, the Chairman of the BgVV and President of the Codex nutrition committee, spoke of consumer health protection in his speech of welcome, he would not concede higher-dose vitamin products any role at all in modern nutritional science.

The recommendation for a guideline on vitamin and mineral preparations goes back to the early 1990s, and as long ago as 1994 I urgently warned that the existing text - which has not been significantly changed since then, incidentally - would lead to the enormous potential public health benefits from vitamins being lost.

What we urgently need, then, is the modernisation of nutritional science. Dieticians must be familiarised with the research results of the last three or four decades before they set out to lay down guidelines for products of which they are aware, at best, only by hearsay. Cardiovascular disease, for example, can largely be protected against by taking high doses of vitamins and other nutrients. The scientific work has been done - not least by Linus Pauling and Dr. Matthias Rath - and the results are available for scrutiny.

What should raise our suspicions is the following: why are nutritional scientists not interested in the potential for disease prevention and even cure of high-dose nutrients and, above all, why do they want to 'protect' the consumer from this scientific progress?

Josef Hasslberger,
Rome, December 2001



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