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From the Townsend Letter
November 2006


World Food Standard Setting Body Fails to Give Diet Its Due

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At its 29th Session in Geneva, the Codex Alimentarius Commission (called CAC or Codex) failed to move the vitally important, consumer-protective "Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health" (GS) from last item on agenda. Following the precedent set by the nutrition-hostile Codex Committee on Nutrition and Food for Special Dietary Uses (CCNFSDU, Bonn, Germany), whose discussion last November moved the subject of GS implementation from item 2 to item 11 on the agenda, guaranteeing that no time remained for discussion, Codex once again placed this consumer-friendly discussion last. None of the 180+ members chose to protect consumer's health by insuring adequate time for that important discussion. Codex meetings end promptly on schedule, a fact relied upon by Dr. Rolf Grossklaus, the CCNFSDU Chair, who recently stated that "nutrition has no place in medicine" (CCNFSDU, 2003).

Codex, the world's food standards setting body, is divided by a deepening conflict over the importance of protecting consumer's health and health freedoms vs. the importance of trade considerations and multinational corporate health. The disconnect between these agendas has been brewing since the founding of Codex as a Special Project of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) at the request of the United Nations. During last year's session (July 4-9, 2005, Rome, Italy), the WHO and FAO chastised Codex for "failing to make a significant contribution to human health." Dr. Kirsten Leitner of WHO suggested that Codex "determine whether it has a relationship to nutrition and, if so, what that relationship is [sic]" and, finally, find ways to implement the WHO GS. The Codex Committee on Nutrition and Food for Special Dietary Uses (CCNFSDU) and Codex Committee on Food Labeling (CCFL) were mandated to provide full discussion during their meeting before the current Codex Commission meeting that took place this last July (2006).

The official Codex website,, notes, "The Codex Alimentarius Commission was created in 1963 by FAO and WHO to develop food standards, guidelines, and related texts such as codes of practice under the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme. The main purposes of this Programme are protecting health of the consumers and ensuring fair trade practices in the food trade and promoting coordination of all food standards work undertaken by international governmental and non-governmental organizations." Despite this articulation of the importance of consumer health, in practice, Codex has made decisions that serve the beneficiaries of the $400 billion global annual food trade. According to health advocates and watchdogs like the Natural Solutions Foundation (, international consumer health and health freedom are severely undermined by the strongly pro-trade – and anti-health – actions of Codex in the face of an increasingly globalized food supply.

Until last year's Codex meeting, concerns about Codex decisions that label nutrients as toxins, approve highly profitable, but dangerously high, levels of pesticides and antibiotics, promote questionable procedures such as irradiation of food, the use of growth hormones in animals, and genetically modified foods, and work to weaken organic food standards went largely unvoiced by countries, because consumer voices were so underrepresented compared to corporate ones. Corporations routinely use their significant resources at Codex to sponsor delegates from developing nations, lobby lucratively for their agendas inside governments and agencies, and form and fund non-governmental organizations designed to further their positions. Corporate success has been outstanding during the 43 year-history of Codex.

With the mandated consideration of implementation of the GS by Codex parent organizations WHO and FAO at last year's Codex Commission meeting, a potentially audible voice for consumer concerns was generated. This voice depended upon the outcome of the deliberations of a WHO electronic forum open to Codex member countries, followed by deliberations on the GS implementation by CCNFSDU (November, 2005, Bonn, Germany) and CCFL (May, 2006, Ottawa, Canada) since these two committees were deemed to be the most suitable venues for nutrition-focused discussion.

Giving voice to consumer interests, South Africa proposed 11 pro-health strategies for this implementation
( and reiterated them at the CCFL meeting, inserting them into the final report of that committee for Codex deliberation. However, the lack of allotted time during that committee has once again placed a roadblock in front of that deliberation.

Rima E. Laibow, MD
Natural Solutions Foundation

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