Codex Committee: “You Can’t Tell People that Food Prevents Disease!”

December 11, 2012
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CodexNot even nutrient-related disease! Our executive director’s gripping report from the front lines.

As we discussed last week, ANH-USA represented US consumers at the international Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses, which met last week in Germany. Our executive director, Gretchen DuBeau, reports that the committee made a number of decisions that may well affect natural health in the US.

Here in the US, we have been debating various issues concerning natural health: Will we retain access to a wide variety of dietary supplements in high-nutrient-level dosages? Will we be able to access nutritious, healthy foods, or will selection and quality diminish because of industry or government control? Will we finally achieve mandatory labeling for GMOs? We naturally think that, if we are able to convince our policymakers, our rights will be protected. But we could be wrong. We have to keep a close eye on what happens overseas too.

Codex, which was established by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), is creating international guidelines for member nations to follow. And while these guidelines are supposed to be voluntary, it is conceivable that our country’s food policies could be overridden by international trade law. At the very least, the wrong international guidelines won’t make it easier to keep the right ones here.

One of the most significant outcomes from this meeting would have the effect of squelching free speech even further.  In relation to principles underlying food fortification for the prevention of diet-related illness, the committee members emphasized that language indicating that food prevents disease is forbidden and they are opposed to claims that may “mislead”—even if the claim is true. Happily, the US delegation disagreed, and said that while the US has similar policies about food claims, by definition the nutrients in food prevent nutrient-related diseases! The Botswana delegation agreed with us, pointing out that iodine prevents goiter, so therefore nutrients do prevent disease, yet Botswana nevertheless reinforced the ban.

This is at the heart of ANH’s work. We are here to educate consumers about the role that food, supplements (including nutraceuticals), and lifestyle play in optimizing health. And now we are seeing the beginning of international policy preventing health claims related to natural health products and foods. It’s difficult to educate consumers when international leaders are forbidding the discussion!

In another extremely troubling decision, the Codex Committee adopted extremely low Nutrient Reference Values for labeling purposes—that is, the intake levels of essential nutrients deemed adequate to meet most people’s minimal nutritional needs. They are roughly equivalent to our “Recommended Dietary Allowances,” in that RDAs indicate the daily dietary intake level of a nutrient considered sufficient by the Food and Nutrition Board to meet the requirements of 97.5% of healthy individuals in each life-stage and gender group. These new NRVs are far too low to be effective at preventing disease, according to most natural health experts, with even higher nutrient values needed to optimize health—though it was stressed that the actual values weren’t important because they are “just for labeling purposes.”

The committee also adopted single values—what some supposed “average healthy person” might need. And of course that doesn’t work! Children, young people, men, women (with different needs if pregnant), the elderly, and people with a multitude of nutrient deficiencies or excesses, food sensitivities, dietary needs, and illnesses—each would need a very different dosage. So we would advocate a range of values, which can take into account bioindividuality—the “systems biology” approach that considers the great variability in individuals’ genetic backgrounds.

Also under discussion were NRVs associated with reduced incidence of non-communicable diet-related diseases, or NRVs-NCD. Regarding those, the committee said, “Governments are encouraged to use the NRVs-NCD, or alternatively, consider the suitability of the general principles below, including the level of evidence required… in establishing their own reference values for labeling purposes for nutrients associated with diet-related non-communicable diseases.” In other words: member countries should adopt these standards precisely, or at least follow our guidelines if you need to tweak them to your needs.

Did you see that phrase, “including the level of evidence required”? At least here we find an upside: the committee proposed a broader scientific standard than the one it had been using previously. Instead of the “gold standard” of random-controlled trials (RCTs), both WHO and FAO now use something called the GRADE system, which takes into consideration all levels of evidence, including clinical, giving more weight to evidence that is more conclusive. And Codex is inclined to agree with this broader standard. This is extremely positive, as natural health products rarely have patent protection and therefore cannot afford hundreds of millions of dollars for RCTs, but may have an abundance of clinical evidence.

Of course, everyone’s big question is harmonization on supplements—that is, whether the US will accept the limits Codex creates for supplements (in terms of dosages and product availability). Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer to that one. The US delegation made it clear that our country intends to stay flexible—to create our own standards and use our own science, indicating no intention to harmonize at this time. Legally, we are not bound to harmonize. But we are subject to World Trade Organization (WTO) sanctions should conflicting national policy creates trade disputes.

This is unlikely to be an issue, but there have already been conflicts. For example, in 1985 the European Union enacted a ban on the production and importation of meat derived from animals treated with growth-promoting hormones. In 1989, the EU banned the import of US beef produced with growth-promoting hormones, dramatically reducing beef exports to the EU. In 1996, the US claimed that the EU ban adversely affected trade and because their standards exceeded those set by Codex, the WTO should intervene. It did, and a WTO panel ruled in the US’s favor, allowing the US to begin collecting tariffs on $116.8 million worth of imports from the EU—the amount that it lost each year due to the ban.

In other words, while a country may not be obligated to adopt a Codex standard into domestic law, international trade pressures, especially from powerful countries, could create pressure to do so. This is a particular threat when it comes to dietary supplements. Although the US may be able to maintain access to high level nutrients in its supplements, much of the rest of the world will not. And the weight of a standard accepted by 185 countries is almost certain to give determined anti-supplement legislators like Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Congressman Henry Waxman (D-CA) reasons, at some point, to introduce a new bill to harmonize.

Of further concern is the fact that Codex is creating principles for food fortificationadding folic acid or calcium to food—which, as we’ve reported, can in some cases be dangerous. For example, it is dangerous to fortify with calcium without any of the essential co-factors. In addition, this is a band-aid approach to treating nutrient deficiencies instead of focusing on the real problem. We need to address farming practices that are destroying the nutrient content of soil and leading to less nutritious food.

What about GMOs (genetically modified organisms)? Europe is not friendly to GMO, so could we gain some ground there? If this meeting is any indication, the answer is likely to be No. The issue of banning GMOs in children’s cereals was quickly dismissed because of a “lack of science” supporting the claim that GMOs are dangerous. We noted that there were dozens of “experts” in the room ready to support GMO.

Here again we have the international trade dispute problem to consider: If state bills requiring GMO labeling were to pass, and it eventually became federal law, and Codex prohibited such labeling, there would absolutely be a WTO dispute and the international standard would be hard to beat.

This meeting revealed the usual problem of the infiltration of special interests. This threatens to outweigh what appears to be positive intent on the part of many participating in the process. The underlying—and most relevant—question is, “Who benefits from harmonized standards on everything from infant formula to fortification of foods?” Answer: the largest companies in the world. Their interests are represented here, but the consumers of the world are not. The tagline on many Codex documents is “safe, good food for everyone,” but the point that was stressed over and over again at this meeting is that “we are here to facilitate trade.”

As Codex continues through its creation and approval process, it is taking on a life of its own that, despite the current intent of the US to maintain independence, may meet us at our front door and demand entrance.

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81 Responses to “Codex Committee: “You Can’t Tell People that Food Prevents Disease!””

  1. Mark says:

    there are no medical pharm poison cures. There are natural cures. CODEX quacks should be imprisoned for fraud.

       0 likes

  2. Anon says:

    1) BOYCOTT – learn this concept well, and EMPLOY IT – against those enslaving you!
    http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_26620.cfm

       3 likes

  3. Stephen says:

    Back in the mid ’70’s Henry Kissinger said, “Control the money and you control the country. Control the food and you control the people.”

    The public thought he was too extreme when he said this. How unfortunate he’s correct.

       4 likes

  4. More political BS.Continues to destroy the health of the country, with complicit MDs and Big Pharma, and since drugs are 17% of our Gross Domestic Product, they are also bankrupting the country. Medicine is beginning to crash, and it should have never started. Food and alternative healing outshine any medical program other than first aid and necessary surgery. What a travesty this country is developing into. Checking all of the crib deaths in the world, the only coiuntry worse than the US, is Latvia. We are 49th, they are 50th!

       5 likes

  5. Danny says:

    They can make any laws or rulings they want. I will continue to say as I’ve always said. What you eat effects your health.
    … now I’ll just sit here and wait for the black helicopters. :D

       11 likes

  6. Cindy says:

    I am appalled at this, who in the hell made codex our God? We have a right to know what we are putting in our mouths. I am so saddened by the fate of Americans right now, overweight, dying from knowledge. I am a mom of 7, 3 of which have cleft lips and pallattes. I am 53, already lost both my parents to cancer. I was diagnosed this year for lung. I’m fighting back and will let no one tell me I cant. Im upset at the fact that others can dictate our right to knowledge let alone nutrition. Who are these a**holes and what do they eat?

       9 likes

  7. Roger Fuller says:

    12-12-12
    Dear ANH-USA and members :
    So let us get this straight. According to your article, the USA collects tariffs on $ 116.8 million worth of imports from the EU, in the amount on money that the US meat industry lost each year ( from 1989 to 1996 ) from the EU ban on US beef imports. This is because the EU banned the import of US beef contaminated with genetically engineered hormones ( not normal hormones ), dangerous chemical antibiotics, and bacteria from filthy animals covered in their own animal waste up to their knees. And the EU allows the USA to collect a financial penalty from them because the EU wouldn’t accept USA’s poisoned meat ? Is the European Union brain dead ? The WTO should be tried in the World Court for Crimes Against Humanity, period. And why did 185 stupid countries join the WTO in the first place ? Did they have the foggiest idea what they were joining ? The WTO is a tool to ram Genetically Engineered Food down the World’s throat ! The WTO is the reason the ” Battle of Seattle ” was fought.
    We know Senator Durbin promoted S. 510 as well as opposed our supplements. Durbin and Waxman shouldn’t be congressmen. They should be in a Federal Penitentiary for criminally endangering the health of the American People by selling themselves out to drug companies. Anyone who signed a treaty with Codex Alimentarius is a traitor. The US Constitution is the Law of our Land, in the USA.
    yours truly,
    Roger Fuller

       8 likes

    • Richard says:

      Used to be. Now the law of the land is handed to our bought-and-owned Congress by the banks and giant corporations so that they can do whatever they want to increase their bottom line, including killing people. Welcome to the Land of the Lie and the Home of the Slave that USED to be America.

         0 likes

  8. Joanne T Becker says:

    We were warned a long time ago that in signing on to a trade treaty, the US agreed to abide by the Codex Alimentarius, and as was mentioned, the Congress drew up DSHEA to protect our use of supplements. If memory serves, that was NAFTA, signed by President Clinton, followed by CAFTA. Now, we’re stuck with the possibility, thanks to Sen. Dick Durban and others, of losing any ground we gained previously. I’m reading in these posts that people are saying they aren’t using and won’t use GMOs, or adulterated foods to which they object. If you shop in American supermarkets, you can’t escape them. Diabetes is running rampant, thanks to HFCS, which is in everything you use and it’s poisoning us and our children from birth. Imagine the arrogance of government officials, who actually considered giving newborns cholesterol lowering drugs, some of the most dangerous drugs, ever! Fluoride, an industrial waste product and a poison, is in most of the municipal water supplies, and in my community, mandated by our County government -the City has no power here. You know what they say, ‘money talks and BS walks’ – so we’re held hostage by the world’s largest companies. Where is government of the people, by the people and FOR THE PEOPLE?? Out to lunch, as usual.
    For openers, we need to start a petition to remove ALL the FDA commissioners.

       10 likes

  9. Wayne says:

    So you can’t tell anyone that limes can prevent scurvy. Why not?

       13 likes

    • HARRI says:

      …because some drug company might want to shove a drug down the public’s throat under the pretense that it treats scurvey.

         8 likes

  10. Ananda says:

    I am not getting sick of these corporations, I am getting sick of people commenting negatively about them. I am sick of reading ‘we must’, ’someone’, ’somehow’, ‘one day’, ‘eventually’… etc. Not somebody but you, not some day but now! Use your head for crying out loud. I can’t create your world for you, you and only you can do it and nobody else. Don’t think in biblical or universal terms, think in your own small terms. Don’t try to change universe, start by changing yourself. How? I’ll show you how. I refuse to buy produce that is not either organic or certified to be GMO-free. Period. No exceptions. Too expensive? How much did you pay that iPad 3, $800? Crap to that. How many electronic gadgets you have at home which frankly you don’t need? You do have the money if you get your priorities right. I don’t use fluoride water or toothpaste. Organic toothpaste is the easiest thing in the world to find. Vaccination? You can, but you will be vaccinating my or my child’s dead body. Let me put it this way. What would happen inf only 10% of US consumers would take this approach. GMOs would become a liability overnight and that would mean the end of it once and for all. So why bloody don’t you!!! Say NO to this evil now, not tomorrow.

       48 likes

  11. watchmom3 says:

    I am totally nauseated by the blatant disregard for TRUTH! These world organizations need to butt out of everyone’s business! They know that they are hypocrites, but the job security just keeps them in their own little world…making others miserable! It is encouraging to see that others recognize the level of greed involved and refuse to believe these lies. Some days, I can’t decide if they are really ignorant or just great deceivers. Thank you for alerting us to this farce of protecting people. Keep up the good work!

       21 likes

  12. STAN says:

    Just as Corporations have competition. Just as Political Parties have competition. So shoulld World Organizations have competition. I say we should start a world alliance dedicated to peoples health of which corproate interests are not allowed. It could be called the Global Peoples Health Organization (GPHO). We could address climate issues as it takes a good climate to grow our foods. We could address food practices to insure healthy foods. We could address nutrition issues and thus disolving the bars on spreading nutrition advise. With the Internet, it could take off.

       29 likes

  13. Anita says:

    What’s the bottom line here? What can we do to nip this in the bud?

       1 likes

    • thomas says:

      What can we do? Exactly what we have been doing and what they want us to do. Stretch ourselves thin and donate millions to a fight group, take this to court and lose the battle.

         0 likes

  14. Denise says:

    As a chinese medicine doctor also trained in Chinese nutritional therapy, I can say without a doubt that foods prevent disease! The Chinese have known this for thousands of years! I teach a nutrition class on this very subject and I teach students how to choose foods that nourish and heal them based on their individual constitutions. Has Codex not heard of Hippocrates? He said, “Let food be your medicine, and medicine be your food.” Take that, Codex!

       41 likes

  15. Until the profit motive is transformed into the values of health, wholeness, support and cooperation…we will continue to see the progressive march of the international trade power brokers’ wishes into our lives. Everyone who maintains ONLY a profit motive, to the exclusion of all other values, will assure this form of global, power-hungry paranoia that has anything but consumers’ interests in mind. Wake up!

    As someone once famously said, “It is far too late and things are far too bad for pessimism.”

       19 likes

  16. M. Watt says:

    I believe that it is my right as an American to decide to read and purchase whatever the heck I want. I will NEVER buy GMO or modified food. I will never buy processed food. Nothing these big corporations an do will ever change my mind nor the world’s.

       13 likes

    • ROCK says:

      Unless you grow your own food and buy local farmers mart ,,the nonllabeling clause of the WHO
      presupposes you will not know even if your food is dung….

         5 likes

  17. Betsey Keck says:

    You have succeeded in scaring me half to death. WHY do 185 nations have to agree on nutritional standards? They don’t agree on much of anything else. People in Liberia eat dogs. Should dogs become a popular entree in the USA? When it is clear that corporations are only interested in making money and damn the consequences why are they even allowed in an organization dedicated to the health of people? It is such a huge conflict of interest. ANH-USA is not promoting policies to make money. It is promoting information and policies to make people healthy/healthier. That, to me, is a monstrous division of intent. What can be done about this? Please don’t tell me it is ‘NOTHING’.

       8 likes

    • Alice Moriarty says:

      I’m not so worried about what the WHO says. I’m ver worried about our own bent FDA who are funded primarily by Big Pharma. Big Pharma does all the testing and gives to FDA the results they choose. When people are made ill or die, Big Pharma then admits they did not give FDA all of the test results. Why is this allowed to be? Well, I tell myself, “We want a balanced budget don’t we?” Follow the money. Only when the American Voter votes carefully for people who are willing to stretch the budget far enough to assure honest work, will we have honest FDA decisions based on tests funded from the US Treasury. As it stands now that has a snowball’s chance at the equator.

         0 likes

  18. Melvin Hampton says:

    Access to good supplements and nutritious foods is important to our health and happiness. There is already a big increase in diabetes and other health problems due to GMO food and chemically contaminated foods. Control of the supplements and food supply by the wealthy will have serious political consequences.

       9 likes

  19. Barb says:

    What can individuals do to best facilitate protests against Codex.
    Barb

       1 likes

  20. Kat says:

    I’m eating organic and I’m eating local. I don’t care who says what. I have stopped listening to self-interest corporate backed “authorities” a long time ago.

       9 likes

  21. Robert James says:

    Such trade agreements are tool used by international corporations to over ride governments and the people of nations who elect those governments. If the American people understood that their elected representatives were giving away their constitutional rights with such “trade agreements” I’d expect they would not return those representatives to office.

       5 likes

  22. Mitchell says:

    How can individuals shout about these standards groups and their meetings to call attention? Would you make up a crowd letter writing web page with news organization’s emails ready on database for locals to fire off these news blurbs of yours to? Works nicely to Congress…

       3 likes

  23. Ronnie Plant says:

    Has this lot, known as Codex, forgotten that HIPPOCRATES, the founder of MODERN MEDICINE, promoted the true idea and maxim ‘LET FOOD BE THE MEDICINE AND MEDICINE BE THE FOOD’?
    Having visited one of Ireland’s larger hospitals yesterday and having to pass by the A&E department it is very highly noticeable that despite the country being on its knees monetary-wise the SICKNESS INDUSTRY thrives as never before.

       6 likes

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