Will Codex Alimentarius Undermine Global Health Freedom?

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What Is The Codex Alimentarius?

The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), based in Rome, Italy, is an international organization jointly created by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WTO) of the United Nations. The Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Use (CCNFSDU) is responsible for Dietary Supplements and Medical Foods and is one of some 27 separate Codex committees. The CCNFSDU meets once yearly in Berlin, Germany (its host country) and the National Health Federation is a Codex-recognized organization with the right to attend and speak out at these meetings.

The purpose of Codex is to provide a forum to facilitate global trade in foods and promote consumer food safety by developing science based standards and guidelines for use by member countries. Codex guidelines and standards are automatically implemented by the General Agreement on Trade & Tariffs (GATT) of the WTO and become binding for all international trade among GATT signatory countries. The CAC process calls for proposed committee standards and guidelines to be forwarded and approved by the Codex Alimentarius Commission's Executive Committee.

When the proposals reach final approval (after an eight-step process), they then become binding on all GATT signatories, including the United States. Thereafter, no GATT-signatory country may use as a trade barrier any standard or guideline that disagrees with a Codex guideline or standard. According to some, it does not mean that all GATT countries must adopt Codex standards for their own domestic use. According to the NHF, we think that Codex guidelines and standards will inevitably supersede domestic laws, including the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994.

The National Health Federation supports Codex guidelines and standards that are based on a free-market approach that maximizes freedom and health. In a free-market approach, the consumer is king and can choose to purchase and consume any foods and dietary supplements that he or she wishes. History has shown that the safest food products do not come from a top-down driven, controlled-market economy where an elitist select few decide what is "best" for all of us. Rather, the safest and healthiest individuals are those who are free to choose for themselves what is best for their health. The National Health Federation does not say that a free-market system is perfect.

No system is perfect. Instead, the goal is to minimize health errors and disease and a free-market system inevitably leads to such minimization. Recent history has shown centralized, planned economies to be among the unhealthiest for their citizens. And the more that free-market economies themselves are seduced into allowing health-care decisions to be made by elitist planners, the more health and health freedom will suffer. Therefore, the National Health Federation supports a decentralized system of health choices; and the most decentralized system is one where each individual consumer is free to choose what to put into his or her own body.

In the case of Codex, the National Health Federation opposes the current Codex member states who wrongly believe that consumer health will be enhanced by: (1) denying that dietary supplements can benefit normal, healthy people; (2) incorrectly defining dietary supplements as only those vitamins and minerals that the body cannot manufacture itself; (3) restricting the upper-limit amounts of vitamins and minerals, particularly by referring to currently-crude and archaic medical beliefs about nutrients; (4) restricting any physiological benefit information for consumers; (5) restricting the lower-limit amounts of vitamins and minerals that may be consumed by individuals; and (6) creating "positive" and "negative" lists of dietary supplements.

The current direction of Codex is off course and is unfortunately driven by a statist and elitist mentality that thinks it knows what is best for consumer health and protection. Unfortunately, such a mindset comes from the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s kind of "brave new world" thinking that elevated central planners into a form of "God on Earth." That kind of out-dated thinking has caused more misery, death and disease than can possibly be imagined. That is why the National Health Federation supports a Codex process that will free up health knowledge and products for the entire World. 

A free-market system of choice and knowledge will avoid the errors of central planning that sets standards, however well intentioned, into stone. With the doubling time of knowledge constantly accelerating, mankind cannot afford the "luxury" of getting stuck in health standards established in the 20th Century while new health knowledge and products are discovered almost daily. We also wish that such discoveries continue. The best way to ensure such progress and advancing health is to keep the planners and bureaucrats from strait jacketing dietary supplements with medievalist thinking and restrictions.

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