The POP Campaign – A Viable Voice in U.S. and CODEX Food & Supplement Policy

Thursday, July 21, 2011 @ 01:07 PM
posted by admin

The global POP Campaign was founded to educate and to promote the power of the community of consumers and industry of the organics movement in preserving and promoting organic foods, dietary supplements, overall health and food freedom.  POP played a significant visible role throughout the process of making the Food Safety Bill, S-510, a much better bill.

The three-legged prongs of power for the POP Campaign to gain strong influence are Health oriented providers; Grass roots support and outreach, and Grass tops – industry participants.

The Campaign is poised to play a key role in coalition building with other representative groups, businesses, health practitioners and educators so as to strengthen its voice and leverage impact throughout the world.

Foods and Supplements Are Inexplicably Linked

In the U.S., as you know, dietary supplement rules and regulations are under the umbrella of food regulations as dietary supplements are considered foods, not drugs. Even without the regulatory connection, foods and supplements are inexplicably linked, as most dietary supplement ingredients are food based. Some dietary supplement companies only use organic food products to produce their supplements. This “linkage” is a point of contention among regulators; and, Congress continues to clarify the regulatory framework. Within this contentious context, POP’s role is essential on an ongoing basis to ensure an educational role and watchdog presence.

CODEX Threat to Supplements and the Dangers of a CODEX to U.S. Bleed-through

CODEX is a very specific threat to supplements worldwide, including potential bleed through to US policy. A major stage has been set as seen in occurrences in the international arena where the European Union, led in large part by the same players who are on their CODEX Delegations, passed a law several years ago requiring prior approval of supplements before entering the market place.  As we saw this year, this has dramatically limited product access.  Because the EU does not have the protections of the Proxmire Amendment, they have succeeded in setting upper limits on vitamins that are below the therapeutic threshold.

Although the Proxmire Amendment withheld challenges by the FDA and got ultimately folded into DSHEA, the threat remains to undercut this cornerstone. (Most recently the introduction of S 1310, the Dietary Supplement Labeling Act of 2011 which you will hear much more on soon.) Every significant piece of food and supplement legislation that has passed has a section pertaining to the coordination and compliance of that legislation with ANY treaty or international agreement the US has signed. Any treaty has CODEX rules as the driver, giving that agreement a trump card for over-riding any food policy and freedoms allowed so far within the U.S.

Besides the obvious protections in place, and the introduction of S-1310, are there still any tangible threats? Yes, threats to DSHEA in the near future exist.  On the front burner, the FDA’s egregious tactics where they raided the Amish Farm and the Oregon Maxam Nutraceutics supplement company with scores of armed agents shows their mindset – if you are small and ‘alternative’ you are a target.  Further, there are legislators such as Waxman and Susan David, who are always looking for ways to overturn DSHEA.  Again, the FDA continues to seek ways to get around DSHEA, they want drug like pre-market approval requirements and revive this at every level possible.

A small counter step was taken in 2010 where, for the first time pertaining to the CODEX and trade amendments in any legislation, the POP Campaign specifically shared process information with the Senate to amend the Food Safety Bill CODEX section to include FDA accountability language and a two-year report back to the Senate on the impact of CODEX on Food and Organic products. This is the first time that this has happened.

Another huge counter influence is the media where it continues to state fraudulently that dietary supplements are not regulated (or the new phrase, are ‘barely’ regulated) and run sensational dramatic stories to gain readership. The POP Campaign has made concerted efforts to be a source of reason, truth, and clarity and has helped share information and reframe the dialogue around these issues. In 2010, it garnered public statements for the record by Senators Harkin and Hatch that the FDA cannot adopt CODEX Guidelines affecting dietary supplements without Congressional Approval.

The ongoing work in CODEX has to do with setting reference values on vitamin and mineral supplements.  This is very controversial and will be used to expand this attack on supplements to the global market place and demand conformity to participate in trade issues. Furthermore there are activities in process or in development that will or may specifically affect individual products and where the POP Campaign can have a stronger presence and share information, for example in the cases of Noni and Kava (as seen in the note below).  Some additional supplement microscope activity is seen around Blue-green algae, Ginko Biloba, Acidophilus and probiotics to just mention a few. (Please see below.)

As CODEX bleed-through gains momentum as seen in FDA, Trade, Agriculture, etc. U.S. Departments agendas, these efforts to solidify and seek CODEX alignment require constant vigilance and education – a role the POP Campaign plays.

Legislative Policy Presence and Education Savvy

The POP Campaign plays a strong role of “health educator” and has a presence in DC – this presence being vital in connecting with legislators and key staff. Knowing how to script the message and what areas to provide information with certain legislators and policy makers is crucial to success. Strengthening this connectivity for back channel communications, leveraging, educating, and “getting the scoop” is the backbone of the long-term relationships of the Capitol consultants we work with.

The history includes time spent in the Office of Alternative Medicine, House Government Reform Committee oversight for expanding the health care system to include dietary supplement regulation, participating in numerous hearings that progressed into DSHEA, participated as a delegate to CODEX ‘S special Nutrition Committee, represented 6 million constituents in California, and much more.

So many areas are in development pertaining to food and supplements where POP has a role, for example, our DC presence helped garner several million in research dollars for alternative medicine research through appropriations. This is significant as a tactic for food and supplements because alternative medicine is tied to supplements both philosophically and as a means of therapy.  Every alternative system of healing uses nutrition as the first line of therapy and alternative medicine research dollars often are used for looking at nutritional supplement evaluation.

Grass Tops – Key Alliances

Many times, more powerful even than grassroots are well-positioned grass tops – business executives and owners from the industry willing to give support and speak out. The power of a business owner talking to a legislator is significant.  Business owners equal jobs and  are perceived as friendly territory for garnering support in future elections.  The POP Campaign has the ability to form sound coalitions with business owners and “grass tops” based upon sound thinking and without compromising its positions on organics on every side of policy education.

At the same time, there is no take away from the power of the consumer, and Congress generally wants to do the right thing. Grass roots and tops, providing accurate information and supporting each other through the POP Campaign, can forge new alliances, provide information of new standards, and maintain a complete organic presence.

POP Campaign’s Role Crucial in the US and CODEX Policy Making

Congress is becoming very interested in how the FDA is setting priorities and is engaging with them now about protecting the organic and supplement industry and consumers’ access. This is a high priority for the community. Equally, with CODEX policy making, the POP Campaign can play an important role.

1.        Educating the public about what is happening at policy-making levels – especially proving to be an accurate source of information on a topic where there is so much misinformation. (On the Food Safety Bill, there were more than 200 radio interviews and numerous articles and hundreds of group appearances.)

2.                   Solidifying and expanding the POP Campaign support base, especially through its global Moms for Preserving Organic Power initiative – MOMS4POP.

3.       Educate legislators on organic food and present information as to the alignment or not with CODEX guidelines.

4.       Engage with the international community to improve guidelines within CODEX Committees.

Conclusion

There are many good ingredients in supplements and food that the FDA would love to see forced out of the marketplace.  Science and the traditional use demonstrate benefit not just to wellness, but also to disease management and prevention.  If Noni and/or algae can help with health concern, then the public is going to insist it stay in the marketplace.  The key, of course, is for supplement companies (along with others) to engage in sound discussions and build their presence in Washington by supporting the POP Campaign and being involved so that as an issue arises, they already have an inside presence.

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* MOMS4POP Strategy: MOMS4POP adds a unique platform to the POP Campaign where Moms engage other Moms to keeping their voices and choices alive, keeping organic food and standards pure, keeping informed and educated as leaders and taking action to make a difference…. while making money along the way. Each Mom can realize her dreams together with other Moms, get the professional support to contribute, and build wealth while doing what they do best – being a Mom.

Notes:

Hawaiian Noni: In the fall of 2010, the CODEX Committee on North America and the South West Pacific, included discussion of Noni (also referred to as Nonu).  The Committee from Tonga is running the electronic working group after developing a discussion paper regarding the development of a commodity standard for Noni.  (The same type of process is occurring in this Committee with Kava).  The Coordinating Committee noted that there was a need to better clarify the nature, scope, safety, and intended use of Noni. The Committee also noted that a number of scientific and technical issues needed to be resolved prior to proceeding with the development of a standard.  CODEX is considering whether or not a regional or global standard on Noni is needed.

In past years, the FDA has sent warning letters to distributors of Noni regarding the a breach of the disease claims regulations.  Noni also garnered attention at the NIH, and research looking at its potential benefit for cancer is ongoing.  This can be a doubled edged sword as the design of the study is essential to the outcome, and as we have seen the in the past, not all studies at the NIH in nutrients are well designed and executed.

Blue-green algae: This is listed in the FDA’s poisonous plant database, but they do not make that connection to dietary forms of algae.  The FDA has warned companies that sell drinks with algae as dietary supplements.  There remains a need for reframing scientific points and being alert.

Ginko Biloba: The large clinical trial on ginko at the NIH is a prime example of government corrupting the scientific process.  All of the experts agreed from the outset that the study design could not answer the key question (whether or not the use of ginko in seniors would delay the onset of Alzheimers.) The study as anticipated was negative.

Acidophilus and probiotics: The dramatic rise in the popularity of pro and prebiotics has stimulated interest at the NIH and FDA.  It is one of the incidences in which the benefits are widely known and have become mainstream.  Activia’s advertisements were recently required to change their commercials.

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