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Today europe, tomorrow the world?

MagazineFebruary 2001 (Vol. 11 Issue 11)Today europe, tomorrow the world?

Codex alimentarius is Latin for 'food code', and is also the name of an organisation made up of 146 nations within the UN called the Codex Alimentarius Commission

Codex alimentarius is Latin for 'food code', and is also the name of an organisation made up of 146 nations within the UN called the Codex Alimentarius Commission. The Food and Agriculture Organization, which is responsible for all food and agriculture, and the World Health Organization are responsible for the Codex committees.

Established in 1962 to set international standards for food largely in the Third World the US has used Codex to set standards for global trade. By the 1980s, more than 20 different Codex committees covering everything from fruits and vegetables to food labelling, herbs and botanicals had been created to help standardise the huge global marketplace.In the early 1990s, a committee was set up to address guidelines for vitamin and mineral supplements. The original guidelines, like the EU directive, would have tied maximum levels to the RDAs. However, major opposition from consumer groups such as People Against Cancer opposed the criteria, and the measure failed.

Nevertheless, Codex has declared its intention of creating an international standard. The committee is largely influenced by German and other international pharmaceutical corporations.

In 1996, the Codex vitamin supplement directive proposed that:

No supplements or herbs could be sold for preventative or therapeutic purposes

Natural remedies may not exceed potency levels set by the committee. For vitamins, this would have been one to three times the RDA

No new supplements are allowed unless they pass through the Codex approval process

Herbs could not be sold unless registered and approved.

Many of these proposals were sponsored by the large drug companies.

At this time, these restrictions are languishing. According to John Cordara, president and chief executive officer for the Council for Responsible Nutrition the trade association made up of 120 dietary supplement companies the measure had reached step five of the eight step approval process, but has been pushed back to step three, which is still at the level of debate. The proposal now suggests levels that are three times the RDA.

Nevertheless, it's wise to remember who the CRN are. This 'vitamin trade association' is dominated by pharmaceutical companies, who pay anywhere from $4000 to $125,000 per year for the trade association to lobby on its behalf. If it's more profitable to have lower nutrient levels standardised throughout the world, it is doubtful that the CRN will stand in Codex's way.

Even Cordara has admitted that it will be difficult for the US representatives in Codex to stand up against a United Europe if the EU directives are passed.

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