World Food Standard Setting Body Fails to Give Diet Its Due

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Codex Aliementarius Commission at its 29th Session in Geneva 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 of the nutrition hostile Codex Committee on Nutrition and Food for Special Dietary Uses (CCNFSDU, Bonn, Germany) last November, where discussion of how to implement GS was moved from item 2 to item 11 on the agenda so that no time remained for discussion, Codex, the world food standards body (which treats nutrients as if they were toxins)placed this consumer-friendly discussion last. None of the 180+ members chose to protect consumer's health by insuring adequate time for discussion of how to protect their well-being by implementing the GS. 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).

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. Although the disconnect between these agendas has been brewing since the founding of the Codex Alimentarius Commission 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 its last 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 currently taking place.

Continuing Codex' 43 year history of focusing on trade support to the detriment of consumer protection, the 29th Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission adopted an agenda which virtually guarantees that there will not be time to find ways to implement a health-friendly World Health Organization Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health since it has been placed as the last item on its agenda. The same tactic circumvented the mandated discussion of this consumer-protective WHO GS and allowed it to escape meaningful discussion at one of the two Codex committees, the Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses (CCNFSDU) tasked with determining how Codex can implement consumer-friendly activities. CCNFSDU moved this important item from Agenda item #2 to #11 (last item) and allotted only 13 minutes to its discussion. Surprisingly, the German Secretariat of that committee forgot to pass out a joint letter on the topic by WHO and FAO, Codex parent organizations. After the letter was handed out (7 minutes), the 6 remaining minutes we divided into 3 minutes of discussion and 3 minutes of a slide show inviting attendees to view the pleasant surroundings of the 2006 CCNFSDU to be held the following year in Chaing Mai, Thailand. Three minutes were thereby allotted for this discussion. By guaranteeing inadequate time for discussion of the implementation of the health-friendly WHO GS, the CAC meeting in Geneva has just postponed, perhaps indefinitely, sweeping changes in its activities to include health as a meaningful focus in addition to the already well established trade considerations which drive Codex actions and decisions.

Codex official website, http://www.codexalimentarius.net/web/index_en.jsp, 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 taken decisions which serve the beneficiaries of the USD $400 Billion global annual food trade. According to health and health freedom advocates and watchdogs like the Natural Solutions Foundation, http://www.HealthFreedomUSA.org, international consumer health and health freedom are severely undermined by the strongly pro-trade, and non pro-health, actions of Codex Alimentarius through the actions of the global food standards body in the face of an increasingly globalized food supply.

Clinically ineffective level of nutrients which are treated as if they are toxins, highly profitable but dangerously high levels of pesticides and antibiotics, mandatory contamination of the global food supply by procedures such as irradiation and treatment of food animals (including dairy cattle) with growth/sex hormones, Genetically Modified foods, significant weakening of Organic Food standards and other decisions taken by Codex over the years are of grave concern to consumers and health advocates like the internationally active Natural Solutions Foundation, http://www.HealthFreedomUSA.org, world-wide. Until last year's Codex meeting, these concerns were largely unvoiced by countries because consumer voices were so poorly represented 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 past 43 years.

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 1. A WHO electronic forum open to Codex member countries followed by 2. 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 and 3. Deliberations of the issue at the current Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting this week.

Giving voice to consumer interests, South Africa proposed 11 pro-health stragegies for this implementation, http://www.who.int/nutrition/comment_southafrica.pdf, and reiterated them at the CCFL meeting, inserting them into the final report of that committee for Codex deliberation this week. This deliberation is now restricted to whatever time is left at the end of other deliberations of the Codex Commission on July. Whether the voice of the global consumer will be audible remains to be seen.

Dr. Claude Mosha, this year's Codex Alimentarius Commission Chairman, personally moved to silence that voice with a letter he took the unprecedented step of writing to prevent a highly vocal national delegate from attending this important Codex meeting under the sponsorship of the Natural Solutions Foundation (see "Codex Chairman Seeks to Thwart Natural Solutions Foundation Pro Health Codex Initiative", July 5 PR Web press release.) This action appears to have been undertaken in order to prevent vigorous discussion regarding the GS, assuming that any time is actually alloted to the GS by Codex.

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Rima E. Laibow MD
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