US Sabotages Global Chance for Optimum Health When World Food Body Endorses Pro-Health Stand for First Time

Share Article

Dr. Barbara Schneeman, head of the FDA Department of Supplements and Nutrition, stunned members of Codex Alimentarius, the UN’s international commission on food standards, today by demonstrating US opposition is to health and consumer protection. This move, in the context of Codex Alimentarius’ first pro-health initiative, simultaneously removed optimal health as a Codex goal and sought to protect advertisement of junk food to children. The World Health Organization explicitly opposes advertising which preys on children at the expense of their present and future health.

The FDA's Barbara Schneeman, PhD, US delegate to the 31st meeting of the CCFL, contined theUS opposition to optimal health and nutrition despite strong support for world health by the World Health Organization (WHO) and most member nations at the annual meeting of Codex Alimentarius Committee on Food Labeling (CCFL, 5/1/06).

Codex Alimentarius, the world’s food standard setting body, has been directly tasked by WHO with implementing the solidly pro-health Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Nutrition (GS), http://www.who.int/hpr/gs.process.document.shtml, designed to reduce the global burden of the non communicable diseases of under nutrition. These conditions account for 59% of the global burden of preventable disease include cancers, cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and other serious and life threatening conditions. Despite enthusiastic support for South Africa’s pro-health recommendations by members of CCFL, Dr. Schneeman used US influence to force the committee to drop “optimal health” as a goal for Codex while defending junk food advertising to children.

Reacting to the mandate given to Codex by WHO (July, 2005) to implement the GS, CCFL deliberated on how to best accomplish that task. In a bold and unprecedented move, South Africa’s outspoken pro-health delegate, Antoinette Booyzen, proposed eleven specific pro-health recommendations to the enthusiastic support of India, Argentina, France and other nations. South Africa’s recommendations are designed to implement the GS within the context of Codex. The US/FDA, often seen as dominated by pharmaceutical and corporate interests, and the European Union, along with Mailaysia, joined in opposing these health-promoting measures and and was able to strike the concept of optimum health from the record before the final report was presented.

South Africa’s eleven recommendations, http://www.who.int/nutrition/comment_southafrica.pdf, were formally presented to the World Health Organization eForum on Codex implementation of the GS. They were designed to facilitate the creation of optimal wellness through commitment to the following principles:

1.    Nutrients are not toxins.

2.    Nutrients are generally safe and sold as "dietary supplements" including optimum potency levels, throughout the world;

3.    All trans fats derived from industrial sources should be eliminated from the food supply

4.    Industrial toxins should be eliminated from the food supply.

5.    Enrichment of foods through dietary supplements to optimize nutrient density of foods and compensate for the decline in micronutrients in agricultural produce should be encouraged

6.    Development of national and international policies which enhance local, national, regional and global optimal nutrition through life-style modification (including diet), fortification and supplementation with dietary supplements at all levels, including optimum potency levels should be encouraged

7.    Encouragement of healthy life styles and life style choices, including diet and supplementation

8.    Foods that do not contribute to, which conflict with or are not essential for, a healthy lifestyle (”junk food”) should be identified and discouraged. Nutrition and health claims in labeling and advertising for those foods that do contribute to a healthy life-style should be encouraged while nutrition and health claims for foods which do not contribute to a healthy life styles should be banned in order to encourage health-supporting foods and discourage ones that do not support health

9.    Encourage truthful, full and accurate labeling and advertising on all foods which contribute to health and ban advertising and health claims on those that do not;

10.    Ban junk food advertising to children (birth to 18 years)

11.     Require that the Chairpersons of Codex Committee on Food Labeling (CCFL) and Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses (CCNFSDU) report to the Codex Alimentarius Commission every other year on the status of the implementation of the WHO/FAO GLOBAL STRATEGY ON DIET, PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND HEALTH and items 1-10 listed above.

Dr. Schneeman took vigorous exception to restricting junk food advertising to children. Norway strongly disagreed and pointed out that this week WHO is holding a meeting in Norway on finding ways to reduce and ban marketing of junk food to children and insisted that CCFL should conform to that position since it must now implement WHO’s GS health initiatives. India seconded that position while Argentina noted that those parts of the Global strategy which lie within the Codex mandate should direct what Codex does. France noted that the impact of the WHO Global Strategy was so important that all other committees of Codex should be involved in its implementation rather than just CCFL and CDNFSDU.

Dr. Schneeman astonished the Codex Committee on Food Labeling (CCFL) members when, after they had reached consensus on South Africa’s pro-health recommendations, she announced to the CCFL that the US could not support “optimum health” as a goal of Codex but offered no further explanation. Despite the vigorous support by CCFL members of South Africa’s approach to implementing the strongly pro-health GS, the Canadian CCFL Chairwoman, Anne MacKenzie, who had just accepted wording inserting “optimal health” as a goal of Codex, immediately bent to the desire of the US.

Ignoring the strong consensus of the group, Ms MacKenzie immediately agreed to drop health from Codex by ignoring CCFL’s expressed consensus. Upon hearing the US’s objections, she gaily said, “Into the report and out of the report!” before unilaterally violating the consensus procedure by which Codex operates and deleting “optimum health” from CCFL’s deliberations on how to meet its mandate to implement GS.

Just prior to this surprizing turn of events, Ms. MacKenzie had summarized the lengthy discussion of South Africa’s recommendations and developed a shorter 5 point summary of the themes in CCFL's consensus. CCFL agreed that South Africa had suggested the best way to implement the GS and this would be presented to the parent body, Codex Alimentarius, at its next general meeting in Geneva, Switzerland (July 3-7, 2007).

The Chairwoman constructed her summary of the CCFL discussion as follows:

1. It is necessary to enhance and improve label information concerning nutritional information in having consumers able to make informed choices about foods and food choices that will improve their health. It is beneficial to make nutritional information mandatory on labels even in the absence of nutritional claims.

2. The importance of non truthful advertising and marketing is a significant issue for implementation.

3. Codex food standards should not impede the development of modified versions of foods that are intended to assist consumers in improvising their food choices so existing standards should not serve as an impediment.

4. Because under-nutrition is crucial to the development of the preventable chronic diseases identified as global health hazards by the WHO, the importance of sound science as the basis for any actions to implement the Global Strategy was stressed, particularly with reference to health claims. Non communicable disease considerations must consider prognosis and the science behind their development.

5. CCFL noted the need to improve the access to adequate, accurate and truthful information in the implementation of the WHO Global Strategy.

A pro health observer group supporting optimal health as part of Codex’ mandate stated that CCFL should be looking at optimizing health and nutrition and that, in fact, “our goal is to optimize health and nutrition" and submitted such wording for inclusion in the final recommendation document at this session.

Chairwoman MacKenzie responded by stating, “I believe that we can certainly insert that” and prepared to move on to the next item.

Dr. Schneeman immediately noted that the US could not support optimum health and was immediately rewarded by the Chairwoman of CCFL cancelling the inclusion of “optimum health” language laughing while she observed aloud, “Into the report and out of the report!”

Prior to the Chair’s compliant removal of the “optimum health” language, South Africa’s pro-health, pro-consumer comments drew strong opposition from Dr. Schneeman, who, on behalf of the United States, strongly rejected any attempt to restrict advertising of junk food to children stating that truthfulness alone was appropriate but the target audience should not be Codex’ concern.

Once approved by CCFL, CCFL 5 “themes” will be presented to the Codex Commission for further consideration and implementation. South Africa’s health-friendly initiative represents a major step toward consumer protection for Codex and represents the first time that Codex has ever accepted a pro-health mandate as part of its responsibilities. WHO chided Codex for not taking a pro health stance in the past and insisted that it implement the GS in two stinging rebukes during the last Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting in Rome (July 4-9, 2005)

The World Health Organization, one of the two parent bodies of Codex Alimentarius Commission, represented by Dr. Kirsten Leitner, Under Secretary for Sustainable Development, rebuked Codex for failing “to make a contribution to human health in [its] 42 years of existence". Following that scolding, another representative from WHO instructed Codex that hence forward it would be required to implement the WHO GS through the work of the Codex Committees on Food Labeling (CCFL) and Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses (CCNFSDU).

Although the CCNFSDU met following this demand (November, 2005, Bonn, Germany), it failed to consider the new mandate, continuing a long history of health-hostile measures and policies. For example, when it adopted the Vitamin and Mineral Guideline on July 4, 2005 (Rome, Italy), Codex set the stage for vitamins and minerals to be treated as toxins with permitted upper limits for doses set so low that they can, by definition, have no impact on anyone. This anti health bias is supported by a guidance offered by a World Health Organization Workshop on the Application of Risk Assessment to Nutrients, http://www.who.int/ipcs/highlights/full_report.pdf which defines a nutrition-related adverse event as any change in any bio marker in a human being. This means that even beneficial changes are defined as adverse events if related to nutrients.

Americans, however, are accustomed to the health freedom granted by the 1994 Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act (DSHEA) which treats nutrients as foods. As such, they can have no upper limit set on their use: upper limits do not apply to foods.    The Vitamin and Mineral Guideline stands in direct opposition to US law. The Natural Solutions Foundation, http://www.HealthFreedomUSA.org, has challenged the legality of this position whick violates US law and has entered a Citizen’s Petition to that end, http://www.healthfreedomusa.org/action/step3.shtml.

The Natural Solutions Foundation, http://www.HealthFreedomUSA.org , a prominent health freedom organization, was represented at CCFL 2005 by its President, Major General Albert N. Stubblebine III (U S Army, Ret.), Medical Director, Rima E. Laibow, MD, and a Principal Legal Advisor, Mr. Ralph Fucetola. This strong presence allowed the Natural Solutions Foundation to observe the historic response of CCFL to the WHO mandate that it implement its pro-health Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Exercise and Nutrition. Because it sets global food standards which impact domestic law and international trade, the impact of a Codex’s health hostile, or health-friendly, position on nutrition will be felt globally.

###

Share article on social media or email:

View article via:

Pdf Print

Contact Author

Visit website