BERLIN CODEX MEETING TARGETS SUPPLEMENTS; NHF ON HAND

 

National Health Federation General Counsel Scott Tips JD planned to represent the NHF in the Berlin meeting June 19-23 of a key international body whose deliberations could severely hamper citizen access to dietary supplements.

The veteran NHF counsel will speak for America's major health-freedom organization at the meeting of the Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Use of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CCNFSDU).

The head of the US delegation to this unit of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations is Dr. Elizabeth Yetley of the FDA, an organization most observers feel is hardly in the forefront of protecting citizen access to dietary supplements.

Germany, whose government is hosting the CCNFSDU panel, has proposed international standards for "harmonizing" and "regulating" dietary supplements through international agreements which Codex signatory to World Trade Organization (WTO) and General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) international accords.

Such harmonization, fears and the burgeoning dietary supplements industry, could result in the control of such products as pharmaceutical drugs, a considerable increase in their costs, and their eventual removal, in whole or part, from the free market.

(The American FDA has repeatedly denied that Codex agreements would have the force of binding law in the US.

(Suzanne Harris, of the Codex-monitoring Law Loft, noted May 22 that "all nations that are members of the Codex/WTO system agreed under the terms of the Sanitary Phytosanitary Agreement to ultimately harmonize their laws and regulations to Codex standards."

(Ms. Harris has also noted that more than 90 percent of the "international non-governmental organization" [INGOs] recognized by Codex represent giant multinational pharmaceutical corporations.)

Earlier this year, One Voice, a publication of the Patient Coalition of Naturopathic Physicians (PCNP), wrote of the Codex, established in 1962 for the purpose of setting up global food standards to facilitate world trade:

"One study found that 20 percent of all participants on Codex working committees represented business interests while less than one percent represented consumer interests. They don't need a vote to have influence!

"Unfortunately, Codex regulations illustrate a conflict between the interests of global trade and those of consumers.

"Germany has proposed standards to the CCNFSDU which are parallel to German laws and favorable to the interests of the big German drug companies like Hoechst, Bayer, BASF, Rhone Poulenc, Lambert and Sandoz. For example:

"1. No dietary supplements for preventive use.

"2. Dietary supplements potency limits set by Codex.

"3. Codex regulations preempt national laws.

"4. Codex approval of all new dietary supplements.

"Germany was the first country to ban the sale of dietary supplements except by pharmacies. Norway and South Africa are already following this example.

"Dr. Elizabeth Yetley presented a paper (drafted by the National Academy of Sciences but partly funded by pharmaceutical subsidiaries-Roche Vitamins, Inc. div. of La Roche; Daiichi Fine Chemicals, Inc; and Kamin Foods) as her contribution to the 1999 CCNFSDU meeting.

"Entitled 'A Risk Assessment Model for Establishing Upper Intake Levels (UIs) for Nutrients,' this paper proposes extremely limited potency for all food supplements sold over the counter.

"On May 22, the Law Loft's Harris reported that the FDA's May 17 meeting to discuss the USA's proposed position on vitamins and minerals to be presented in Berlin was "marked by considerable indecision...and a number of important issues are still up in the air."

Among the proposals were these:

* Whether to support limiting access to vitamins and minerals to those that have proven "scientifically" their value to human health.

* Whether to agree to restrict access to high potencies of vitamins and minerals that are small multiples of the new RDA (DRI-dietary reference intake values or similar intake reference systems.)

* Whether to agree to restrict access to high potencies of vitamins and minerals based on safety, safety being determined by "scientifically conducted" risk assessment.

* Whether to start creating product specific negative (no trade/no sale lists) and positive (ok to sell/ok to trade) lists.

* Whether to devise a scientific protocol within which to construct the no trade/ok to trade lists first.

* Whether to require labeling based on nutrient content only, thus probably eliminating labeling that would differentiate between manmade products and natural ones and/or preclude mandatory label disclosure of genetically engineered content in dietary supplements.

"While it is probably a good idea to have dietary supplements remain under Codex jurisdiction (as opposed to falling within World Health Organization jurisdiction), all of the proposals that the FDA is currently considering are very dangerous.

"While the process is complex and understanding it requires a good understanding of the relationship between national legislation, the World Trade Organization and the GATT agreements, the administrative structure of the Sanitary Phytosanitary committee within the WTO and how WTO expands the scope of its subject matter agreements in closed meetings at ministerial conferences, it is enough to say here that each of the proposals that FDA is currently considering presenting in Berlin is hazardous to your health freedom."