Natural Foods Merchandiser

Codex supplements standards approved

Eighty-five countries at the Codex Alimentarius Commission conference in Rome July 4 unanimously voted to adopt standards for the international regulation of vitamins and minerals. The standards are identical to the proposed guidelines released by Codex in November, with the exception of the addition of the word only to section 1.3. To view the complete guidelines, visit

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.

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

Executives at the Washington, D.C.-based Council for Responsible Nutrition, which lobbied for years in favor of the Codex standards, said the standards won't affect the U.S. Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act or supplements sales within the United States. But the impact of Codex 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 Union. UL, based in Northbrook, Ill., is a nonprofit, independent agency that has tested more than 19 billion consumer products over the last century.

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