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Codex meeting in Ottawa: Business as Usual, or “Stunning Victory” for Health Freedom?
June 29, 2006

EU and US Square off at International Food Code Meeting

WHO/FAO Global Health Strategy at Risk

Report to the Vitamin Lawyer Contact eList

Ottawa – 05/02/06 – The thirty-fourth session of the Codex Alimentarius committee on food labeling (CCFL), held at the Congress Center in the Canadian capitol, is witnessing the continuation of bickering among various delegates, with each nation or block seeking advantage over the others.

Both vitamin purveyors and consumers could be the losers.

In recent years the Codex process has been criticized by the international agency’s parent organizations, the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization for failing to contribute to better health. WHO and FAO have mandated the Codex Commission to implement the WHO/FAO Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health. The GS puts good nutrition, including dietary supplements, in the forefront of efforts to improve world health. The Commission has, in its turn, mandated the CCFL, and other Codex Committees, to take steps within their terms of reference to implement the Strategy.

While the representatives of many nations paid lip-service to the Strategy, when it came time to take action, calls for specific action from states such as South Africa and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as the National Health Federation were marginalized or ignored.

I was at the meeting with the Natural Solutions Foundation. NSF members attended both the Organic Workshop and the Committee meeting as observers, to assess the impact of the agency on the world health crisis. NSF, along with other NGO observers, were dismayed to see a coordinated attack on natural health lead by the otherwise rival US and EU delegations. This impacted both nutrition issues and organic issues.

When one NGO (NHF) asked to have a reference to the use of nutrition for optimal health added to the committee recommendations for implementation of the Global Strategy, the US delegation (controlled by the FDA) demanded that such language not be allowed. The Chair of the meeting complied.

When South Africa made 11 specific proposals, including the significant proposal that dietary supplements be encouraged as foods, not treated toxins, as had been the standard Codex anti-nutrient approach prior to the Global Strategy mandate, the well-constructed proposals, vigorously supported by the pro-health NGOs, were ignored by the Chair and South Africa had to insist that the proposals be included in the minutes of the meeting. These proposals can be seen at: http://www.who.int/nutrition/comment_southafrica.pdf. South Africa raising the banner that “Dietary Supplements are Foods, not Toxins” (drugs) was a very significant step to supporting health freedom of choice.

While this may seem to be dry bureaucratic infighting, the impact of the World Food Code, in our growing globalized food marketplace, cannot be under estimated. NSF is particularly concerned that cheap, safe, advanced natural approaches to optimal health will be ignored, in favor of expensive and dangerous pharmaceutical interventions that developing countries and under insured people in the developed world cannot afford, thereby denying billions of people access to the improved diet that the Global Strategy says is essential to their health and very survival.

While “business as usual” predominated, with a dangerous assault on the integrity of organic agriculture along with the marginalization of the Global Strategy, the good news is that various states and NGOs are allying themselves with the Global Strategy and demanding that the Codex system make a real effort to implement rules for better diet for better health. The pro-health lobby did attain a consensus that WHO/FAO would review all comments and make further recommendations to the Codex Commission meeting scheduled for the WHO headquarters in Geneva this July. At that time the Commission will have to commit itself to implementing the Global Strategy without delay or prevarication.

Ralph Fucetola JD