Codex – Update November 2010
CODEX – November 2010 Update
Codex continues to be a potential threat to consumers of supplements world-wide including in
the United States. They simply are beyond their mandate of working to insure fair trade and to
make sure products are clean. Products that are on the horizon of becoming targets of CODEX
are Noni and Kava.
At the recent meeting of the Codex Coordinating Committee for North America and the
South West Pacific (CCNASWP) Tonga, Kava and Noni were on the agenda.
Kava: In 2002, the FDA issued a consumer advisory of the potential risk of severe liver injury
associated with the use of kava-containing dietary supplements. The FDA advisory stated,
“Kava-containing products have been associated with liver-related injuries – including hepatitis,
cirrhosis, and liver failure — in over 25 reports of adverse events in other countries. Four patients
required liver transplants. In the U.S., FDA has received a report of a previously healthy young
female who required liver transplantation, as well as several reports of liver-related injuries.”
This Codex activity on Kava began in 2008 when the Coordinating Committee generally agreed that
further scientific research were needed to clarify a number of safety issues, prior to considering the
standardization of kava for food. Kava has been consumed safely in the Pacific Island countries for 3,000
years. It has been determined that the water extracts are not linked to liver toxicity and the WHO
concluded that products should be developed from water-based suspensions of kava. The WHO also
recommended, “adequate quality control measures across the producing countries with agreed standard
operating procedures should be instituted for growth, harvesting and processing of the kava root or
rhizome” The WHO also clarified that the report examines pharmacological properties of several
substances in kava but did not evaluate the safety of kava for food use. Pacific producing countries are in
developing national legislation to ensure kava fair trade. Codex is promoting a harmonization of the
national standards being developed through the development of a kava standard.
Noni: The Delegation of Tonga presented at the meeting a discussion paper proposing new work to
develop a standard on Nonu also known as Noni. It was noted that “increasing different sources of nonu
and the diverging number of nonu products being traded internationally as a basis to consider the proposal
for new work on the development of a standard for nonu products to ensure consumers’ safety and to
forward the request to the Commission.”
In a little bit of good news, the Coordinating Committee opted not to make a decision during the meeting
as the discussion paper needed to be reviewed. They did however suggest that Tonga clarify whether the
the current Fruit Juices and Nectars Standard or other existing CODEX standards would be sufficient,
whether safety studies on Noni were needed, and asked for a more detailed description of the nature and
intended use of Noni. The Committee agreed to establish an electronic Working Group, led by Tonga,
open to all members of the Region and Observers and working in English only, to revise the discussion
paper, including the project document, for consideration at its next session. We can anticipate by 2012
that CODEX may decide to begin working on Noni standards.
Climate Change Creeping into Codex
In conjunction with the current climate change debates, the Codex Committees are being to
adopt language which serves as a conclusion that climate change is affecting the food supply.
While some would say this is not a confirmed fact, it is being promoted subtly as a conclusive
fact. This will be important to monitor to determine if they are seeking to make changes in
regulations based on climate change theories.
The Codex Trust and the Move to Get More Participation
At the most recent Executive Committee Meeting in Geneva this summer, the Assistant Director
General of the FAO said that it was important for Codex to avoid delays in standards development and
stressed the importance of participation of developing countries and capacity building. While donor
countries (in particular the United States) have given over $2 billion to run Codex, there was discussion
about the need to use resources wisely and to curtail spending where ever possible.
Another issue discussed was the lateness in which documents are made available to delegations.
Historically, it is often just days before or the day of an annual or bi-annual meeting that the working
document is made available. This is insufficient time to review and offer true input.
A study conducted on the speed at which it takes to introduce and have adopted a standard found that
between 1994 and 2008 it took an average of 4.2 years to finalize a text and specifically for food safety
standards 3.5 years. This is shorter that most assumed of the 8 step process.
It was noted that the FAO and WHO were in the process of installing a mechanism with a
structure similar to JEMRA (Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meetings on Microbiological Risk
Assessment) in order to give scientific advice to the Committee on Nutrition and Foods for
Special Dietary Uses (CCNFSDU) . It was noted that in some cases in the past the missing
structure for scientific advice on issues related to nutrition and foods for special dietary uses had
led to delays in the work of the CCNFSDU. This new structure will create another layer of
meetings and decision making for which we will need to be vigilant.
The take away message for the delegates at Codex was, “Adopt approaches proven to facilitate
advancement of texts in the Codex step procedure by subsidiary bodies not currently using such
In April 2010 the Chairman of the Codex Committees gathered for a retreat that “focused on
building negotiation skills to assist Codex delegations and to develop mediation skills for chairs
as they help delegations to build consensus.” Four recommendations that were reported was (1)
software to be made available online to facilitate electronic working groups; (2) A manual
produced by FAO/WHO to offer advice for delegations on how to negotiate and for chairs on
how to mediate; (3) the need for the Codex Secretariat to raise awareness of the option for the
chairs to use the option of “Friends of the Chair” to move issues forward; and (4) to seek
different options for physical working groups. There was much discussion about whether to
limit the size of working groups (which would mean excluding some countries) because some
Chairmen feel large groups of hard to work with. Other Chairmen felt keeping the groups openfor all who desired to participate was not too difficult and important for transparency.
Earlier this year, the leadership at Codex sent a questionnaire out to member countries to gage
the use of Codex standards and related texts at the national and regional levels as well as to learn
about nutritional issues within the region which were described as, “obesity, nutritional profiles,
and any public health-oriented actions taken including the use of nutritional labeling and claims.”
Codex asked for the following information:
I. Use of Codex standards and related texts at the national and regional level
II. Non-use of Codex standards and related texts at the national and regional level, with
reasons where applicable
III. Difficulties encountered in the use or application of Codex standards and related texts at
the national and regional level
IV. Relevance of Codex standards and related texts as a basis for harmonization of legislation
and regulations, including in the perspective of economic integration
V. Any other health and/or trade problems related to standardization at the national or
The Codex infrastructure is being utilized to promote “national food control systems’ including
legislation on food safety and which promote and adopt Codex Guidelines. One can only
surmise from this inquiry that they are seeking ways to insure 100% compliance in the future.
Two Codex Committees began working on developing a definition for “Nutrient Reference
Values” (NRVs) for use with respect to developing on guidelines for nutrition labeling. Codex
delegates were requested to respond in 2010 on both the importance of a definition and the draft
“Nutrient reference values are a set of numerical values established and used for purposes of
A proposed extension of the definition was proposed: “and are based on scientific data on
nutrient requirements” and “and/or nutrient levels associated with risk of diet-related
noncommunicable diseases” While agreement was reached on the need for a definition, no
consensus was reached on wording.
If one takes a bird’s eye view of the entire food safety debate, including the development of
codex standards on eggs and other products, FDA standards in eggs and other products, the well
timed food recalls, and the push to have Congress pass legislation, one could surmise there is a
connection between the entire process, driving by those who desire to see the UN’s Codex
activity pull the strings on all food regulations worldwide.
Codex and Organics
Codex does have an existing standard for Organics which is attached. It may be the best
written Guideline in CODEX and continues to uphold that genetically modified foods need to be
labeled. It is modified annually; comments are welcome.
National Organic Program Invites Comments to Proposed Amendments to National List
The National Organic Program November 15, 2010 published proposed amendments to the National List of
Allowed and Prohibited Substances (National List) for crops and processing, based on
recommendations by the National Organic Standards Board.
As identified in the proposed rule, the amendments would add the following substances to the
National List, along with any restrictive annotations: microcrystalline cheesewax for organic
crop production to §205.601 of the National List; acidified sodium chlorite for organic
processing to §205.605(b); and dried orange pulp and Pacific kombu seaweed for organic
processing to §205.606.
If adopted, the proposed rule would also amend the annotation for unbleached lecithin in
§205.606(o), and remove bleached lecithin from §205.605(b).
The National List identifies synthetic substances that may be used (§§205.601 and 205.603) and
nonsynthetic (natural) substances that may not be used in organic production (§§205.602 and
205.604). It also specifies the nonagricultural (nonorganic) substances that may be used in
processed organic products (§205.605) and nonorganically produced agricultural products that
may be used in processed organic products (§205.606). Since established, the National List has
been amended thirteen times.
Comments are due January 7. The POP Campaign will be sending a draft response for
approval by mid-December. You can send your comments too email@example.com
Codex, formally referred to as Codex Alimentarius, is a rapidly moving legal and political movement that consists of a collection of international food standards, food practices, food guidelines and other food recommendations. The Codex Commission was formally established in 1963, and began years of ‘informal’ research. Although the ‘modern’ roots of Codex go back to the Food Agriculture Organization (FAO) formed in 1945 through the United Nations and its FAO committee. Few people are aware of Codex and it impact, as it has been a stealth-like and low-key campaign since it was created.
The Goal of CODEX
The overall goal of Codex is to develop a comprehensive policy that controls all food so that trade associations, governments, and companies can harmonize their various food standards to facilitate food safety and conformity. Supporters want Codex to work just like a universal norm of laws. The code is supposed to protect the health of consumers and make free trade practices easier and markets fairer because everyone will be on the same page.
Is it Law?
No. However, this does not keep it from getting implemented. On a basic level it is just a code of international regulations and guidelines. However, it gets teeth because the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted it as an official global standard – a big thing. The 182 country members of these organizations join because of the availability of international markets and the trade advantages provided by the WTO and the WHO. Once in these clubs, these members are expected to contribute and to support the international standards or else they will loose their privileges.
Problems of “One Size Fits All”
The creation of a global standard means that only the largest and loudest voices are heard. When Codex was created, the largest and loudest were not organic proponents or the organic farmers. This means that now the overarching rules of Codex tend to favor larger un-organic companies. The goal of this “one-size-fits-all” policy is to sell more products in order to make more money. This makes sense for big profits and a profit-driven company, because the market can get streamlined and everyone is on the same page. However, this eliminates the little guy – and makes it difficult for start-up small companies. It especially makes it difficult for value-driven companies—those interested in responsibility and the values of the consumer—because of the differences in company goals.
This “one-size-fits-all” does not make sense regarding organics. For example, the only California Almonds you can buy in commercial stores are pasteurized. Organic, raw almonds do not exist. This is due to overarching Codex rules that state pasteurization is good in EVERY CASE. There is a way that small farmers can get around this rule: they can go directly to the farmers market and sell direct because a grower is allowed 100 pounds of un-pasteurized almonds per day to sell to consumers. However, 100 pounds sold locally are not very many almonds. You can see how this example of Codex regulation limits the growth and competition of the market by preventing small, value-based, organic companies to compete on a large scale. We want to avoid this in other areas!
We believe that those who control our food, control us. This may be obvious to some, but what we put into our mouths affects our health, our addictions, and what diseases we catch. Those large companies who provide food know the truth of how food with chemicals, irradiation, and pasteurization is ‘watered down’ in its potency and they know how this lesser-food affects human bodies. Perhaps now you’re wondering why companies do this, or if they even do it at all! The easiest examples of companies that act this way are the cigarette companies. They know that cigarettes are bad for your health but they continue to sell them for money. This is the goal and actions of a profit-driven company. When this attitude is dominant in policymaking – guess what – the slant is towards big interests and big profits. The code clearly has developed the food monopoly game-board with over 4,000 committees and 182 countries on the side of “one-size-fits-all” profits.
We have to make sure to find a middle ground. There is a common sense balance between freedom and control. We are not supporting the side of “No Regulation”, nor are we supporting the side of “One-Size-Fits-All Regulation”. In the areas of food safety, for example, too much freedom allows a farmer in a less developed rural area to use seriously contaminated water on crops, to mix too much manure in the soil, or to have workers at a production facility that do not wash their hands when handling fresh produce.
However, on the other side of the spectrum, one size does not fit all. We are obviously very advanced with technology, and we have the capacity to “tailor” policy to consider organics and the “little guy” farmers. We also have to ability to train and educate the entire “farm-to-fork” process. We have the capacity to not favor saving a buck for a corporation or large farm at the expense of our health and choice to eat organic.
Europe is much more invested in Codex regulations than the United States. The code was actually formed through the United Nations and its FAO, which means that Europe has had the code in place for much longer than the U.S. This is very good for Americans because we can keep an eye on the situation over the ocean to find out the future of Codex and where the regulations will take our markets. For example, you cannot ship vitamins—such as zinc—to France without them being confiscated by authorities. Penalties are not as strong as being caught with cocaine or recreational drugs, but the stage is set for fines and regulations. Also, a doctor’s prescription is currently needed for certain high dosages of vitamins so as to “prevent toxicity”. The POP Campaign wants to prevent these types of unnecessary regulations. We can use Europe’s relationship with Codex as a preventative map to where the U.S. is headed if we fail to take action.
There is very interesting wording within CODEX policies that “strongly suggest” that a country member cannot allow national markets to place an unfair advantage on imports from member countries. This implies that, for example, almonds provided for us internally must be irradiated to level the playing field of consumer market preferences so that irradiated imported almonds from another country can have an equal opportunity. This is really tricky as it implies that the quality of organics within the US may need to be compromised so that imported organics have an equal market share. Bizarre – but the stage is set.
For more information:
Visit the Codex Alimentarius Wikipedia webpage Here
Click Here for a link to the Codex website