Today, Thanksgiving Day, sees the end of three days of meetings of delegations from some 70 countries and numerous non-governmental organizations, at the 27th Session of the Codex Committee on Nutrition & Foods for Special Dietary Uses (CCNFSDU) in Bonn, Germany.
The Committee, which started developing a global guideline on vitamin-and-mineral food supplements more than 10 years ago, was attempting at this year's meeting to address a number of additional contentious issues. Amongst others, these included the amounts of vitamins and minerals required for good health, the application of risk assessment to establish safe maximum dosages, the scientific basis of health claims, and the implementation of the World Health Organization‚s Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health.
The National Health Federation (NHF), a U.S.-based, international health-freedom organisation of more than 50-years standing, was the only non-governmental delegation representing the interests of vitamin consumers at this meeting.
The NHF sent three delegate members to this year‚s meeting. Scott Tips, Legal Counsel for the NHF and its Codex delegation head, said: "The bad news is that these guidelines could stop millions of people around the world from using food supplements containing nutrients in sufficient amounts to benefit their health. The good news is that there is recognition by an increasing number of delegates that there are serious flaws in some of the scientific methods being used by some health authorities that are now under consideration by the Committee. Fortunately, however, we believe it‚s not too late to rectify these problems."
Scientific Advisor to the NHF and its newest delegation member, Dr Robert Verkerk, who is also Executive & Scientific Director of the pan-European Alliance for Natural Health, continued:
"There is increasing scientific consensus that a sea change in the nature of the science being contemplated for both risk assessment and the setting of nutritional reference values is needed. We are working closely with scientists around the world to help facilitate this change and the NHF will be making submissions directly to the Committee's Electronic Working Groups that are dealing with these issues. If governments are going to address nutritional health seriously, they cannot any longer afford to ignore the role of high-quality food supplements in health promotion."
The NHF's Vice Chairman and veteran Codex delegate for the organization, Paul Anthony Taylor, added: "Codex guidelines are, in part, supposedly designed to protect consumers, when in fact, they could actually cause harm by preventing people from accessing beneficial vitamin dosages and forms. Millions of consumers are already using dietary supplements in ways that we could not have imagined when vitamins were first discovered. For example, when the U.S. National Institutes of Health announced recently that vitamin C selectively kills cancer cells, this information was trumpeted around the world by the media as if it were a new discovery. In reality, of course, enlightened consumers have known about this property of vitamin C for many years now and have been safely using this information as a means of improving their health and prolonging their lives. Codex guidelines should be assisting, not inhibiting, the spread of existing knowledge."
Unfortunately, due to a lack of time and last-minute shuffling of its schedule that relegated some of the most important issues for consumers to the end of the meeting, the Committee did not adequately discuss the agenda items on health claims and risk analysis. The NHF, along with other consumer and health-freedom groups around the world, is concerned that if excessively restrictive global guidelines for vitamins and minerals are established through Codex, consumer access to food supplements with a long history of safe use will be blocked. This would particularly be the case if countries adopt the guidelines into their own national laws, but could also occur as a result of socio-political pressures caused by the existence of internationally-recognised guidelines backed by World Trade Organization enforcement sanctions.
The NHF shall therefore continue to work with other delegations in pursuing specific and realistic pro-active strategies that will maximize consumer choice and optimize human health.
2006 Session of CCNFSDU
Next year's meeting in October/November will take place in Thailand. The Thai government will co-host the session along with the German Secretariat.