Chester J. Zelasko, Ph.D. |
February 9, 2005
The Internet is a
blessing and a curse for the health industry, and so is e-mail. In the past
week, an e-mail has been circulated that seeks to frighten consumers into
believing that vitamins, minerals, and herbs will be curtailed in the
marketplace and become much more expensive. The culprit? Codex Alimentarius,
which was created in 1962 by two United Nations organizations: the Food and
Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Codex is an attempt to set standards for food safety in member countries,
which number over 150. Trying to standardize how foods and food products,
including dietary supplements, are prepared, packaged, and shipped to other
countries to limit contaminants and disease is a good idea--I don’t think
anyone could argue with that. What has people upset is that Codex is trying
to provide guidelines for what dietary supplements contain.
While it would take dozens of pages to explain each point in that e-mail,
here are the high points:
“Codex will override Unites States law and be enforced by the World
Trade Organization (WTO).” The WTO Rules are very clear: they
recommend what trading nations should do, but they can’t override the laws
of that country. If that country sells products in other countries, Codex
may have some impact, but supplement companies that sell products in other
countries already have to comply with the laws of those countries. The new
rules will have minimal impact.
“No supplement may be sold for preventive or therapeutic use.”
There is no mention of this in the document referred to in the minutes of
the Codex meeting as Step 8.
“Any potency higher than the RDA will be considered a drug and
require a prescription.” There is no mention of this in the
document referred to in the minutes of the Codex meeting as Step 8. However,
what is stated is that the provision on Upper Limits “should not lead to the
setting of maximum levels that are solely based on recommended nutrient
intakes such as the RDA.” That means the guidelines can be set by each
member country. There is no mention of prescriptions or anything remotely
like that in the document.
There is also mention of three bills in the U.S. Congress. A check of the
Congressional Record reveals the following.
HR 1146 has nothing to do with Codex; it's a bill that was
sponsored to withdraw from the United Nations. In fact, several Congressmen
sponsor it every year, and it hasn't passed in at least three sessions of
HR 3377 is essentially a hazardous events reporting bill in
this year’s Congress and was introduced in response to the ephedra problem
of a few years ago. It does not control the amounts of vitamins and minerals
in supplements. However, it will require a company report any significant
hazardous effects--very similar to what is done with pharmaceuticals. It has
not been passed into law.
S 722 was from last year’s Congress and didn’t pass into
law. However, sponsoring Senators tried to insert parts of the bill into the
Department of Defense appropriations bill last year. It was removed after
deliberations, with an agreement to discuss it in this year’s session of
Congress. In effect, it’s still a hazardous events reporting bill, the
result of the ephedra problem.
Based on actually reading most of the documents cited in the e-mail, it
doesn’t appear that our right to take supplements will disappear or be
impaired. It doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pay attention to this issue, but
there’s no reason to panic. If you feel the need to write your
Congressperson and Senator to let them know how you feel about the issue, do
it--but base what you’re going to tell them on facts, not the fear-mongering
that proliferates in your Inbox.
- United States Food Safety and Inspection website
report on Codex