A majority of countries now support risk assessment in setting global guidelines for upper safe levels for dietary supplements following a recent meeting of the Codex Committee on Nutrition for Foods for Special Dietary Uses in Berlin. The hard-fought battle in Europe that established risk-assessment as a credible mechanism for establishing USLs looks set to influence the global guidelines which Codex is preparing.
However, Codex Committee chairman Professor Rolf Grossklaus, from the German Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), said that in view of some opposition from Denmark, France and Norway, there is still not a consensus and therefore no change would be made to the Codex guidelines that remain at Step 3 in an eight-stage process. Those opposing the proposal argued that risk alone was not sufficient and that a nutrition-based approach should also be integrated.
In total, 24 countries including the 15 EU members support the risk-assessment approach to supplements as opposed to seven who favour the RDA-based approach.
IADSA has welcomed the development, calling it the best move toward a scientific approach since discussions began in the mid-1990s. "We welcome the progress that has been made in this meeting toward a scientific risk assessment based approach to food supplements," said IADSA Executive Director Simon Pettman. "It will be many years before a final guideline is adopted, but the discussion at Codex sends a clear positive signal to governments around the world."
Three options exist for establishing maximum levels for nutrients:
- 100% of RDA.
- Risk assessment based on the text of the EU Directive—supported by Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and Korea.
- Risk assessment based on the text of the EU Directive but without the phrase: "due account shall be taken of the PRI/RDA"—supported by IADSA, US, Canada, Switzerland and Peru.
The FAO/WHO will now proceed to establish the principles underlying risk-assessment and Australia will circulate a document explaining the reasoning behind it. A meeting early this year is expected to address the issues, and Pettman called on the industry to influence the process. "We need to ensure an appropriate model is used, offer help to those managing the process, and encourage the involvement of trusted experts such as the US Food and Nutrition Board who have already undertaken this process."