Codex 2006 Blog Report for 7/4/2006

How Codex and other supplement regulation laws may impact the availability of supplements

Codex 2006 Blog Report for 7/4/2006

Postby pcnetwrx » Thu Jul 06, 2006 2:25 pm

This is a long, detailed fly-on-the-wall look at what Codex is actually like when you are sitting here in the room. I thought you might like to get the feel of these meetings so here you go. REL

First of all, General Stubblebine and I want very much to wish all of you a happy Independence Day. Amidst the fireworks and the fun, give a moment?s thought to what independence really is and what we must take care to keep as our precious freedoms. Health freedom must be high on the list if we are to be really free.

Switzerland has no reason to celebrate our Independence Day, of course. The only lights we saw in the sky this evening were strikes of summer lightening over beautiful Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) as we walked home from dinner. But there were plenty of fireworks today: they were all about health vs. trade during the Codex Alimentarius Commission session today. It was pretty hot and heavy for quite a while (and hot physically, too, since the air conditioning is not very adequate way high up in the peanut gallery where groups like ours get to sit.

However, we are not here for creature comforts.

Oh, by the way, we JUST got invited to participate in an African Regional Health Policies Meeting later this month. More airfare, more hotel costs, more impact on more countries! Won?t you help us with generous support? Your dollars are building a real pro-health constituency at the international level. The seeds for this particular contact were sown last February and the fruit is now beginning to ripen!

Before I go into the specifics of today?s session (which were quite significant), let me share a fascinating slip made by Chairman Mosha yesterday . Do you recall the discussion about the mandatory vs. the advisory nature of Codex? The Codex Secretary made the point abundantly clear that Codex texts, whether standards or guidelines, are NOT mandatory but voluntary. Well, Dr. Mosha ended the whole discussion by summarizing it saying, ?Well, it is now quite clear that Codex guidelines and standards are mandatory!? The attendees gasped and began calling out. Dr. Mosha caught his error and said, ?uh?er? I mean mandatory!? I don?t believe that we were the only people in the room who wondered what he actually DID mean.

Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses (Chaired by Dr. Grossklaus, CCNFSDU) and Codex Committee for Food Labeling (Chaired by Ann McKenzie, CCFL) items were very prominent during the morning?s deliberations.

Finding an acceptable definition of trans fats has absorbed a great deal of energy in Codex. Trans fats like CLA found in grass fed beef and free range dairy products can have important benefits in weight and cancer control, for example. Their presence in these foods varies in amount. There is no way (or reason) to eliminate them. Yet synthetic trans fats from hydrogenation are highly toxic to every cell in the body and cause devastating increased in heart, vascular and neurological diseases and conditions. So how to define them, whether to differentiate between natural and synthetic trans fats and how to quantify them is very significant to food technocrats. In fact, their definition has been considered in two sessions of both CCNFSDU and CCFL.

CCFL?s Dr. McKenzie noted that ?Although a very comprehensive discussion ensued, no fundamental changes to definition took place with committee members reaching consensus that it [the definition of trans fats] could be advanced to step 8 with a proviso that a footnote be added. This was the only way a consensus could be obtained.? Consensus? It?s a consensus when countries disagree so strongly that they add a footnote that changes the meaning of the definition? Just what DOES consensus mean? Stay tuned for tomorrow?s wild discussion on that one.

Next the US blandly described what happened at CCFL concerning one of its hobby horses: unlabeled Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs). You will recall that the US is the only country in the world which allows the use of GM foods without labeling them. That means that unless your food is labeled ?Organic? or ?GMO Free? you must assume that it contains GMOs. If it has corn, soy or any products from them, if it has canola oil, increasingly if it has potatoes or an increasing number of fruits, it contains GMOs whose safety is, at best, unknown. If you want to be part of a grand, although uncontrolled experiment, go right ahead. Eat GMO food. Perhaps we?ll be able to sort out how many ?excess? cases of cancer, auto-immune disease, lethal allergies, brain tumors, etc., were caused by this contamination. Or perhaps not. Only time will tell.

The US has worked hard to bully, cajole, convince and bribe the nations of the world to accept its biotech food. By the way, we learned from the Afghani delegation that new, improved biotechnology-improved high yield, newly robust larger plant-producing opium poppy seeds are being provided free of charge to the same farmers who are officially urged to abandon growing opium. Biotech opium? Sure! Why not! It?s all about trade. This one?s illegal, but it?s still trade, right?

For 8 years the US has been stymied by about 43 countries that will NOT have unlabeled GMO foods and have kept the US from getting what it wanted. (This, by the way, is a wonderful example of what countries can do to protect their people?s health if they choose to work together and put in the necessary energy to accomplish this excellent outcome.) Excellent, that is, until the US said that there was no need to continue deliberating this any longer. What that would have meant is that unlabeled US GMO foods could have been traded into countries of the world one at a time. This would have been another kind of win for the biotech forces. Picking countries off one at a time is another strategy for them.

When the US suggested this option, Norway immediately said, ?NO! Let?s keep on talking and a plan quickly emerged for a special Working Group this coming January in Norway co-chaired by Norway, Ghana and Argentina. This development was reported upon and noted in order to help CCFL find the way forward on this issue. The only comment of the Chairman? ?This is not a procedural issue? and we moved on to the next item. Just like that!

Not long after that we got to sugar and cereal for infants, but not in the same bowl.

One of the areas CCNFSDU deals with is infant and baby foods. The WHO GS recommends that the energy (calories) from sugar form no more than 10% of the total energy in any person?s diet. CCNFSDU has consistently permitted much higher levels of sugar in these foods while Thailand, India, Norway and other countries have just as consistently opposed these standards and guidelines. Not only do these high levels of sugar contribute to a child?s life long taste for simple carbohydrates (leading to many dangerous health problems later), the amount of nutrition available in the food is diminished by the empty calories so these levels actually make the global malnutrition of children worse all by themselves. Despite years of vigorous protest, somehow, autocratic ?consensus? gets declared and the standards which will kill children (now or later, through malnutrition today or disease tomorrow) keep getting propagated forward as if they have been agreed upon. The trick is that the industry guys conspire to keep something in committee for years and then bring it forward to the CAC saying ?This has been in committee for years so it must have been discussed fully and we therefore don?t want to waste all that good work so we should pass it? Believe it or not, CAC buys that illogical nonsense. What is the ?good work? and time spent in committee compared to the life, health and longevity of a child? Not much, if you ask me, but, then again, I am not a Codex mover and shaker. I am just a health freedom advocate. That makes all the difference, unfortunately. Thailand stated again that it opposes moving this standard forward and wants the CCNFSDU to reconsider the whole standard. No one paid the least attention to that demand. Consensus? What does that word mean?

On to cereal for babies: Suppose you are a consumer and you want to give your baby or toddler cereal which is specially formulated for a child that age. How much cereal do you think it should contain? 50%? 75%? 95%? Well, because cereal is expensive and fillers are, by definition, cheap, Codex says that 25% will do just fine, thank you. India, on the other hand, fighting as she always does, for the nutritional adequacy of her babies and children protested that if only 25% of the product is cereal, 75% is therefore not cereal and so the product sold as a baby cereal product misleads the consumer.

Not only that, but the WHO Global Strategy which Codex is obliged to implement as well as the UNICEF ?Report Card on Nutrition? says that over 50% of world?s children are malnourished. This leads to 5.6% of the deaths in developing countries and this childhood malnutrition is mostly in the developing countries. Since the foods under consideration here are the main components of infant diets, says India, they should compose at least 50% of cereal.

Such a low cereal content translates into tragically low energy densities meaning that even while children are eating these foods they are starving to death. Never mind, India. After all, a cereal-less cereal is a whole lot more profitable and, as the CCNFSDU Chair, Dr. Rolf Grossklaus, was kind enough to point during the 2005 Bonn meeting, ?It would be nice if Codex were about Health [he shouted at South Africa] but it isn?t. It?s about trade!? So, since it?s about trade, it?s no wonder that CCNFSDU advanced a cereal-less cereal standard despite India?s vigorous objections.

India was by no means finished, however, and pointed out that the CCNFSDU standards being pushed to the next level did not require sufficient protein to keep children from suffering from protein malnutrition. These cereals could easily provide more protein and would therefore support a growing child?s known protein needs but the standards do not protect children?s protein needs. In fact, CCNFSDU is actually LOWERING the standards of required protein density. And the response of the Dr. Mosha, the supposedly neutral Chairman (?) Dr. Mosha rudely and abruptly cut off the Delegate from India, representing one out of every 3 people on earth. What was that word? Oh, yes. Consensus.

Singapore, frequently a voice for health, noted that it shares the concerns of Thailand that in these foods the carbs and sugar are too high and is concerned, too, about the energy issue which concerns India. Singapore is concerned because 30% of the food?s total energy, not the recommended 10%, comes from added simple carbs.

Norway expresses, as it did during the CCNFSDU meetings as well, her grave concern about the level of added sugar. Norway noted, ?We raised this in the CCNFSDU because of the GS. We should like the paragraphs concerning carbs reconsidered by the CCNFSDU. If there is no consensus in the CAC we will have our concerns reflected in the [final] report.?

But here?s how it works: the EU stated ?We would like to support the recommendation of the chair [i.e., Dr. Grossklaus] of the committee [i.e., CCNFSDU] to go ahead with the adoption of the standard. We have been talking about it for a long, long time and I think that the concerns have been discussed in the committee but the committee recommended that these standards should be adopted. Of course, it is not the place here to talk about individual concerns [emphasis added] but I would like to note that the concerns of the WHO for sugar is an overall recommendation for diet, not for individual products and here we are talking about an individual product.?

Of course, not stated is that the individual product mentioned forms virtually the whole of the child?s diet for a vulnerable period during which childhood malnutrition, if established, will set up a child for lifelong disease and death.

Uganda joined the ranks of the publicly discontented sharing the sentiments expressed by India and Thailand. In fact, Uganda noted, ?The issues are raised are of a technical issue and were not discussed in committee [CCNFSDU]. These are valid concerns and Uganda will not support approval of this standard.?

Next, the Philippines says that it shares same concerns as Thailand and Singapore.

But wait! It?s time for the Big Dog to weigh in. Dr. Ed Scarbrough, US Codex Manager, takes the floor and says, ?Mr. Chairman, the US supports adoption of these standards as proposed by the chairman. These standards have been under consideration for a long time [did you catch that?] and the committee discussed them item by item. We do not believe that recommendations for the total diet can be imposed on a single item so we support the adoption of the standard.?

Sudan goes several steps further in raising questions saying, ?Sudan endorses the points raised by those members (e.g., India, Thailand, Uganda, Norway, Philippines] who referred to these standards in regard to excess consumption of sugar. But what about cereals and what about GMOs in this framework. This is of concern to us and I thought we were going to talk about it! I know that GMOs are being used in producing cheese. Are there any GMO items used in producing foods for children??

Dr. Mosha takes this opportunity to cut off discussion saying, ?I don?t know but perhaps CCNFSDU would speak on this? and then not allowing time or opportunity for CCNFSDU to do so.

Switzerland joins the US and EU in ?fully supporting? this standard with too much sugar, too little protein and too little energy in the cereal fed to babies world-wide, noting that this standard should be adopted since the standard ?has been under discussion for a long time and we support German secretariat and the Chair of the CCNFSDU who has done a very good job.? So now we know that the issue is not only about trade, but it is a popularity contest, too. How very nice. Tell be sure to tell the mother of the dying baby that Switzerland, where the baby?s cereal was made, allowed the baby to die because the Chairman did such a good job and the item stayed on the agenda for such a long, long time!

The Chair weighs in by dealing with structure, but never with content. He says, ?We are out of time: now I will close the list to more than the following countries: Canada, Egypt, Ireland, Qatar.?

Canada fully supported the adoption of the standard.

Egypt notes that? The sugar content is extremely important in this type of product since it is meant to be ingested by infants and children. Sugar is a source of diabetes and hypoglycemia and I would request these amounts to be reviewed before they are adopted.?

Ireland supports adoption of the standard. Korea supports adoption of standard as recommended by CCNFSDU noting ?If we respect the experts from CCNFSDU we have to rely on their recommendation.?

China perplexingly says, ?This standard has already been discussed for a long time and China supports some delegates opposition and we support its adoption as soon as possible.? I have no idea what that means. None.

Qatar states that it ?Fully agrees with the standard and suggests that it be adopted. We also agree with the point made by the Egyptian delegation with regard to the high sugar content.? I guess whatever the Chinese comment means, this one means the same thing. If you can figure out what that is, exactly, please let me know.

Dr. Mosha, the Chair says the document has been accepted at Step 8 (now ready for ratification) but with the reservation of India, Norway, Singapore, Thailand, Qatar and Egypt noted.? Philippines and Sudan, China and the rest just disappeared. He goes on to ask, ?Is there any strong opposition that we adopt text but note reservation?? and Thailand responds, saying, ?As this standard is very important to health of young children and many countries oppose it we would like to propose that the CCNFSDU reconsider this text portion.?

?The chair is really getting hot!? says the Chairman.
Note to the reader: Hang in there. This is the mind numbing nature of Codex where the life and death of anonymous people are played with by processes which work hard to make it very difficult to keep their real needs in the forefront and I wanted you to have a little taste of it. We are almost done on this one issue.

Dr. Grossklaus, the CCNFSDU Chair uses the twisted logic of Codex and says, ?there were no objections in our committee to forwarding the recommendations up to step 8 and no government sent any comments about this and according to procedural manual if India has not sent any comments, then it is too late. Guideline 11 is very old and is the basis for the revision of this standard (downward for protein, upward for sugar). This gives the countries the opportunity to use not only cereals but roots and other materials in the developing countries. Again, to the restriction of sugars, I mention that the GS mentions that a 10% restriction is for the whole diet and not a single food. We have discussed it extensively and you can read it in paragraph 84 and so I think all these things had full discussion. Thank you?

Dr. Mosha: ?Thank you, Chairman. I noticed the flag of India.?

India: ?This is a response to the concern expressed by the Chairman (Dr. Grossklaus). These concerns were raised there and are on the record of CCNFSDU [raising these concerns over and over again]. We are raising this because we feel that it has not been given due consideration. We would be willing to prepare a technical paper on this subject if this matter is referred back for further consideration.?

Netherlands: ?Speaking as Vice Chair of the commission, on the issue to continue deliberations particularly related to sugar, the CCNFSDU, from the perspective of proper standards setting, has still on its plate the draft revised standard for infant formula. This has been under consideration for some time. I ask the committee to expeditiously finalize its work on that standard and as the concerns related to sugar, we ask to not open the issues and refer it to a later date and ask the committee to move expeditiously to finalize and only come back to certain issues when they have finalized the issues at Step 5.? Take that, India!

Thailand says, ?In the spirit of moving forward we support India?s proposal [to prepare a technical paper if the matter is referred back for further consideration.?

Would you call the foregoing discussion a good example of anything you would care to define as consensus? I would not. None the less, the Chair, Dr. Mosha (who was elected during this session as the Chairman of the CAC for a second term) says, ?We adopt the standard at Step 8 as presented? and ask CCNFSDU to consider [some items in the document] in light of GS and concerns of Thailand, India, Sudan, Egypt.? But the power has been left in the hands of the fox who is guarding the hen house. The hens raising alarms have either been mollified or stupefied. In any event, it?s getting close to time for a little chicken fricassee for the boys from Industry Land!
.

Afternoon: More of same for levels of aflatoxin (the second most deadly carcinogen known) in almonds, hazelnuts and pistachios. Iran wants to raise the levels. Trade, trade, trade.

Then back to Dr. Grossklaus, this time for the sections on infant formula and special formula intended for sick infants. Those who submitted technical comments on these standards are Australia, Bolivia, Brazil, etc. and the World Sugar Trade Commission.

Take a guess:
1. High Sugar
2. Low Sugar.
You Win!

Then somehow we morph into the following discussion:

Cuba: ?We are concerned in view of the structure of the standard where the whole structure has been changed. This has raised a number of doubts concerning indicators which are still between brackets [i.e., not yet resolved]. In my country we import and use a lot of infant formula and I suggest that we work on this standard as soon as possible in order to be able to finalize this standard.?

India: ?In order to promote and protect the practice of breast feeding we feel there should not be a standard for medical conditions as breast milk is best under all conditions and there should be a statement that substitute feeds should be discontinued as soon as possible.

We have other comments but in the interests of time will supply them in writing but we are very concerned.?

Chile: ?We support the points made by Cuba. There are many facets and figures between brackets and we suggest that the committee work as fast as possible to find a solution.

Vice Chairwoman (New Zealand): ?I suggest we adopt at Step 5 and move on.?

Now suddenly we are dealing, sort of, with GM products.

Sudan: ?We are worried about anything having to do with GM products. They have not been fully assessed and we know from lab experiments on rats that some extreme negative effects result from the ingestion of GMOs. .I am sure that there are many things, including carcinogenic effects that have not been discovered. Needless to say, we need to find ways to increase crops without messing around with the genetic material.?

Iran: ?We support Sudan?s proposal?.

Argentina: ?We firmly support the work given to the new task force. We are fully convinced that this is the best way to protect the safety of the consumer. This is the best way to find the safety of DNA modified plants and animals. These products have been on the market for 5 or 10 years and yet some of these foods have not been assessed fully and DNA modified plants need more work. We wish to increase production, protect the environment and assure safe foods for our consumers.?

Benin: ?In our countries, developing countries, the people in charge of food safety and plant safety are confronted with these problems on a daily basis as they are confronted with the problem of Genetically Engineered products. I believe that it is a good thing to do further work. In Benin we need this work to get done so that we can take the right decisions based on proper information and research. Allergies have been mentioned, effects on reproduction and infertility have been reported so far. I believe if we continue this research we will find the solutions. Benin is therefore fully supporting the committee and the new work.?

Cuba fully supports Argentina. Biotechnology is a fact of life, I believe that the impact and consequences of such methods should be fully assessed and therefore we back this new work fully.?

Philippines: ?We support the elaboration for new work.?

Mali: ?I shall not repeat all of the points made by my colleague from Benin. Mali is short staffed and suffers from financial constraints. We need further scientific support to assure safety and therefore we fully support the new work.?

Chairman: ?The proposed draft annex to the Codex Guidelines is approved taking into account the concerns of Iran and Sudan. The whole purpose of this exercise is to gain experience in how to assess the risks in biotechnology.? Huh?

A quick example of double speak, double think, double science.
Ethylene Dioxide used to ripen fruits such as kiwi fruit. Countries want to be able to use it to ripen fruits which are then called ?organic?
An NGO opposed it saying that that is not what people expect when they go to buy ?organic? products.

Cuba opposed it: Organic products should be devoid of any chemical or additives. This is contrary to the expectations of the consumer and the ethics of producers. Economic objectives should not be the only aim of this committee even if it means the ripening of Kiwis.? [!]

EU came around a bit on this one and noted ?We have a reservation if this work is extended beyond kiwis.? I guess fake organic kiwis are OK in the EU.

Let me point out that the discussion also made it clear that no one knows what the impact of high levels of ethylene dioxide on fruit for ripening might be. Does it cause the production of dangerous or even different compounds? Does it change their nutritional content? Make them toxic? No one appears to know.

Philippines expressed reservation that this proposal be elaborated at all.

The Natural Solutions Foundation is with the Philippines, by the way!

Mali noted that it had not, in fact, ?expected to have a reservation but the intervention of the Cuban delegation has created a confusion in my mind. I learned that it was a natural product but Cuba says it is a chemical.?

Chair: natural products can be chemicals but maybe we can refer this to New Zealand.

Costa Rica: Ethylene is a natural chemical which appears in the ripening of products and we support this proposal.

Egypt: there is great apprehension regarding the use of chemical products. Ehtylene may be equivalent to a natural product. The plant itself may produce it. We should not be too scared or wary of ethylene.

Sudan: We are fully in favor of what was stated by the Cuban representative. This is not in line with what is expected by the consumer and we enter a reservation.

Egypt: We should be consistent. There are other natural products that have been reviewed by this committee and since this is natural it should be reviewed by the commission for further study.

Benin: Ethylene is naturally used. When you add it to accelerate ripening it would be desirable that research be carried out. It is possible that if the dosage is not natural certain substances may be formed which should be troublesome in certain circumstances. We would like to understand what happens when you add a greater dose.

Chair: This piece of work is adopted taking note of the specific reservations of the countries.

I won?t go on in this detail but by giving you a close look at what actually goes on in a Codex meeting I think you can see how important the Natural Solutions Foundation?s emphasis on nations working together to make sure that the use of bogus ?consensus? does not override and destroy any and all objections, reservations and concerns which countries have. Reading the above you can easily note many points at which countries could have worked together to make sure that either items were not adopted, sent back for further consideration or sent back at an earlier stage for more discussion at the Committee level.

Another discussion like the ones I have detailed took place on the nature and meaning of advertising and whether it was appropriate for Codex to get involved. The multinational corporate interests (represented, of course, by the US and its friends) did not want Codex involved saying it is a matter for each country to deal with.

There was a strong push to allow Codex to deal with advertising only as it pertained to health claims and to note that advertising was ONLY a national concern for each country. Morocco, however, made a very good point which was totally ignored: ?We believe that advertising is no longer a national matter that comes under government purview: it is a world wide phenomenon which spreads from country to country. I believe not only a definition but a code of ethics would also be necessary?

Argentina was on the multinational ?leave me alone to advertise anything I want? side but did note, ?It is the role of government to rule by law and regulation and that the Codex guidelines no way are binding?? once again underscoring the strength of the Natural Solutions Foundation?s International Strategy which you can read an application of in our Codex eBook.

I don?t think another such exhaustive report is necessary but for those of you who have never been at Codex, I imagine that you now get the picture in some gruesome detail! The sheer weight of the proceedings offers us tremendous opportunities for impact! More to come. Stay tuned.

Yours in health and freedom,
Rima E. Laibow, MD
Medical Director
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