Susan Negus’ Comments on trip to 23rd Session of CODEX Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses in Berlin Germany, November 26 – 30, 2001
This report was written in December 2001 for the American Holistic Health Association’s monthly e-mail report, AHHA Special Updates, to share Susan’s experiences as a member of the U.S. delegation to the Codex Committee meeting in Berlin Germany.
In November of this year, I had the privilege of being selected to serve on the United States Delegation for CODEX in Berlin Germany. I had heard about the CODEX ALIMENTARIUS COMMISSION and its efforts through its Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses to control what supplements and levels of those supplements could be sold, but I never really gave it much thought. I did not think that this could possibly happen in the U.S. where we have had the freedom for so long to use natural vitamins and supplements far more freely than elsewhere. As I sat there, with headsets on so I could hear one of the four language translations, I soon realized how wrong I was. I was listening to a group that was setting guidelines that would restrict what and how much of a vitamin (among other things) I could buy.
CODEX is a group of 75 countries and organizations from all over the world that meets periodically for the purpose of developing an international food code to ensure quality and safety based on sound scientific fact. The group’s stated and seemingly ethical goal is to insure consumers that they are getting safe, wholesome food, as well as being protected from unfair trade practices. In theory, there appear to be great benefits for having standardized products that are structured to be safe for consumers; but, in reality, it doesn’t work because of the hidden agendas, nearsightedness and greed of the leaders involved. Also, controls and restrictions really only limit the options and choices of an individual. In reality, these “guidelines” will only act to restrict what can be included in these products and take away consumers’ freedom of choice and ability to make their own decisions. If anything, this bureaucratic, “top-down” mentality that the government knows best what you and I should be permitted to consume is nothing more than incredible arrogance that history has proved wrong over and over again. As they say, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
CODEX participation dictates that a country’s delegation must be led by a government employee. This results in some interesting dynamics. Governments tend to be about regulations and control, not about individual freedoms and choices. The head of our U.S. delegation is Elizabeth Yetley, PhD., a lead scientist for the Nutrition Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Dr. Yetley appeared to have very specific opinions regarding what she would support, and it appeared to be consistent with the FDA agenda. As spokesperson and the only member allowed to speak to the assembly, when members of the U.S. delegation voiced differing points of view to her, she would not share those views with the full assembly even when they were consistent with U.S. law.
The representation of the subjects of debate can be questioned. Delegates from other countries and groups shared privately that the heads of their delegations would often not voice the opinions of their groups. In addition, when reasonable points were presented to the full assembly that did not support the control position (for example, the issue of the individual’s ability to assimilate vitamins), certain other participants would at most acknowledge the point made but then simply dismiss it and the agenda would move on.
The scope of the CODEX guidelines of what constitutes a food product is expansive and includes not only food labeling, additives, contaminants, etc, but also nutritional products (vitamins and minerals) which they consider to be foods. By including these “nutritional products” in their scope, they are drawing guidelines that will standardize vitamins and minerals (among other things; such as, baby formulas, diet and energy products – and, ultimately, everything) worldwide – so that trade between the various member countries will supposedly be assisted by standardized product composition and labeling. Unfortunately, it also means that freer countries (such as the U.S.) are being drawn down to the far more restrictive standards of the less-free countries (such as Norway and India).
Another example of matters addressed is infant formulas –Among the guidelines, in the development of baby foods, is one dealing with informing mothers how they will feed their babies. The delegation from India wanted pictures on labels so illiterate people would know how to use these products, yet they ignored the fact that most of these same people cannot even afford to buy the baby formula. Instead of educating mothers, the mentality of “treating the symptom but not the disease prevails.” This mirrors the problem with the health-care system; instead of helping the body repair itself, the symptom is suppressed. By limiting our freedom to choose how we treat our bodies, we only succeed in keeping people ignorant and at the mercy of government control (and mistakes).
One major implication that the U.S. government delegate is completely ignoring or won’t talk about has the most potential for devastating impact. The U.S. has trade agreements with most of the countries participating in CODEX. If these CODEX “guidelines” are put into place, the U.S. will be forced to change U.S. law to match the guidelines if the U.S. wants to continue doing international trade with these countries and avoid trade sanctions. Of course, the U.S. manufacturers would be forced to follow these new U.S. laws.
Some argue that this could not happen in the United States. However, it has already happened. In October 2000, the 106th U.S. Congress changed the U.S. Tax Code to comply with a World Trade Organization’s (WTO) bureaucratic dictate. (Reference; International Law Trumps Domestic Law, Whole Foods Magazine, January 2001, page 72). Because the U.S. had voted to join the WTO in 1994, it was now bound to the WTO’s bureaucratic dictates and forced to change its law to comply with those dictates.
Many delegates within the U.S. delegation at CODEX saw the possibility that pharmaceutical companies could successfully lobby the U.S. Congress to allow high dose vitamins only by written prescriptions from medical doctors if the U.S. was forced to restrict the maximum amount of vitamins in a product. These products would most likely be manufactured by pharmaceutical companies in the U.S. – not the natural products’ industry.
If you believe that control of vitamins could not happen, be careful. It’s happening right now as the European Union (EU) is currently working on legislation to standardize vitamins and minerals. As recently as December 6th in London, The Times ran an article discussing how in January 2002 the EU will pass, for the second time, a directive in the European Parliament that will establish maximum levels for vitamins and minerals. Their next step is to establish what those maximums are.
In the past, CODEX, regarding only the area of vitamin and mineral supplements, has agreed to the following;
1) The scope would include “vitamin and mineral supplements intended for use in supplementing the daily diet with vitamins and/or minerals. These Guidelines apply to vitamin and mineral supplements which are regulated as foods.” The following, taken directly from the CODEX Agenda Notes states, “It is left to national authorities to decide whether vitamin and mineral supplements are drugs or foods. These Guidelines do not apply where products are regulated as drugs.” In other words, these guidelines would not apply if vitamins and minerals were sold as drugs (controlled by the pharmaceutical companies) and required a written prescription from your doctor. This means the game is rigged from the outset; those countries that already regulate their vitamins and minerals as drugs do not have to comply with these Codex guidelines, while those countries that allow freer consumer access to vitamins and minerals will have to abide by these drug-like restrictions. “Heads, I win; tails, you lose.” That’s not my idea of a fair bet.
2) Again taken from the CODEX Agenda Notes, composition of the vitamins and minerals “may contain all vitamins and minerals that comply with the criteria” which “shall contain vitamins/provitamins and minerals in conjunction with the relevant CODEX standards whose nutritional value for human beings has been proven by scientific data” which is “a single nutrient or an appropriate combination of nutrients.” This means that vitamins and minerals must have scientific studies that show what they can be used for and whether they can be used alone or in the appropriate combination (which must also be proven scientifically). Unfortunately, in reality, the results of most “scientific” studies are a consequence of large payoffs to the companies testing the products. Even worse, the economic costs of engaging in drug-like clinical trials to satisfy the drug-oriented mindset will enormously increase the product costs of natural products that have been in use for decades or longer and that are far safer than drug-company created synthetic alternatives.
3) Labeling must include the statement that “supplements should be taken on an advice of a nutritionist, a dietitian or a medical doctor.” This is a troubling insult to consumers because it implies that they are not capable of making intelligent choices about what to take to improve their health. Unfortunately, the limited knowledge medical doctors have on vitamins and minerals does not even remotely qualify them to advise people on them.
Despite opposition from some members of the U.S. delegation committee, Dr. Yetley (the U.S. FDA government representative) did not protest the following issues which gained consensus:
Minimum and Maximum Contents of Vitamins and Minerals were discussed. It was agreed that it would be necessary to set minimum and maximum dosages for particular ingredients in an approved vitamin or mineral product. Reasons stated for controlling high-dose vitamins were: (1) safety and (2) so people would not use them as meal replacements – particularly in Third World countries. While CODEX continually stressed that everything must be scientifically based, no research was presented to show how high-dosage vitamins were unsafe. It’s interesting to note that no adult has ever died from an overdose of vitamin or mineral supplements. Unfortunately, the FDA cannot make that claim regarding prescription drugs they have approved.
The actual minimum and maximum amounts are still under discussion, but the current status of the debate is leaning toward imposing a minimum of between 15% and 33% (equal to one meal) of Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) in each serving. Also not agreed to, but currently being discussed, is a maximum amount of 100% of the RDI.
If imposed, this would mean consumers could not get high-dose vitamins (except possibly with a prescription from a medical doctor). Also, this would eliminate the choice to use very small amounts of a vitamin in a product where this would have a synergistic effect. Another concern is that under these restrictions, it is very possible that vitamins without established RDI amounts would no longer be available.
In listening to the various discussions it became apparent that the “guidelines” being created were not intended to be just suggestions. They were to become equivalent to laws stating exactly what will be allowed and not allowed.
Is this situation inevitable or can we protect our rights? I see the following as possibilities for you to consider:
Hundreds of thousands die each year from pharmaceutical drugs and yet CODEX is concerned about our intake of vitamins and minerals. As Harry Masterton-Smith, the chairman of Consumers for Health Choice commented, “I’m allowed to smoke myself to death and drink myself under the table, so why can’t I take perfectly safe vitamin and mineral supplements?” The only explanation is that it is politically motivated and not motivated by so-called “concerns” for the health and welfare of the public.
The horror of the reality of CODEX sends chills through my body. I probably wouldn’t believe how serious it is except for the fact that I sat right there and watched it happen. I cannot encourage everyone enough to do whatever they can to let people know about this and take any action – no matter how small it may seem – to stop or at least slow down this group which is restricting our ability to make choices regarding our health. Like I used to think, you may think it will never happen; but let me tell you, it is happening now!
The next CODEX Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses meeting (24th Session) is scheduled for early November 2002 in Berlin, Germany. Past CODEX progress can be reviewed in their web site at www.codexalimentarius.net.
|Susan J. Negus, H.H.D. is president of Dreamous Corporation USA. She has a strong background and education in business and holistic health and has dedicated her life to helping people live a healthier life. Ms. Negus is Secretary/Treasurer of the American Holistic Health Association Board of Directors. She attended the November 2001 session of the Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses. She has appeared on national and international television promoting health of body and spirit and done radio shows on HGH and other healthy living modalities. You can contact Ms. Negus at (310) 442-8544 or firstname.lastname@example.org.|