Natural Foods Merchandiser

Codex impact still not known

While some American supplements organizations are cheering the July 4 adoption of international Codex standards for vitamins and minerals, others caution there is still work to be done to ensure the standards fully benefit U.S. supplements manufacturers and consumers.

Washington, D.C.-based Citizens for Health believes some of that work entails defeating the proposed Central American Free Trade Act, which is pending in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Patrick McGrath, associate director of Citizens for Health, said CAFTA, which would expand U.S. free trade laws to six Central American countries, could ?weaken protection of dietary supplement consumer choices? through the establishment of a CAFTA committee that would consult with the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

Codex, a joint venture of the United Nations? Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization, was created to protect consumer health worldwide and develop global food standards.

Codex?s vitamin and mineral standards, adopted by a unanimous vote of 85 countries at the July conference in Rome, are considered more restrictive than those outlined in the U.S. Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. The new Codex standards are identical to the guidelines released in November, with the exception of the addition of the word only to section 1.3. (To view the guidelines in their entirety, see ?Decoding Codex? in the May NFM.)

The standards specify that maximum levels for vitamins and minerals in supplements products be established through scientific risk assessment, rather than recommended dietary allowances.

Executives at the Washington, D.C.-based Council for Responsible Nutrition, who lobbied for years in favor of the Codex standards, said the standards won?t supersede DSHEA or affect U.S. supplements sales. But their impact on international sales is less clear.

American Herbal Products Association representatives said in a statement that the Codex standards could ?be used under World Trade Organization agreements to force countries to allow the importation and sale of products that conform to the guidelines.? But some organizations note that the WTO uses Codex rulings as benchmarks and could therefore place punitive duties on American companies that export supplements that don?t meet Codex standards.

That?s why CRN, AHPA and other organizations are continuing to lobby during the next stage of the Codex process—establishing the scientific methodology for determining supplement risk assessments.

AHPA would prefer there be no maximum safety limits on vitamins and minerals. But if there are going to be limits, ?Our role is to make sure that the scientific risk assessments are done well,? said AHPA President Michael McGuffin. ?We don?t want to see the same [recommended dosages] for every human.?

John Hathcock, CRN?s vice president of science and international affairs, said the Codex agreement approved July 4 ?doesn?t say how or when the risk assessments will be done.? But Hathcock, who attended the Rome conference, said he expects a report from a Codex risk assessment methodology workshop to be released in August or September.

He predicts the methodology chosen will be a blend of the Underwriters Laboratories testing methods currently used in the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Community.

Vicky Uhland is a Denver-based freelance writer.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVI/number 8/p. 7

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