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Codex: What Exactly is it and How Does
it Impact Your Health Freedom?

The Codex Alimentarius Commission was created in 1963 by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) to develop worldwide food standards.

Codex Alimentarius

The food standards developed by Codex Alimentarius are now voluntary, but could be made mandatory as soon as 2010.

Today, Codex Alimentarius, or the food code, serves as a "global reference point" for consumers, food producers and processors, national food control agencies and the international food trade. Its primary mission is to "formulate and harmonize food standards to protect public health and ensure fair practices in the food trade."

While compliance with Codex standards is now voluntary, it may become mandatory by 2010 -- a move that has prompted considerable controversy about the future freedom of food.

Who's Involved With Codex?

The Codex Alimentarius Commission, which is responsible for creating the food code, is an international body. According to the most recent statistics, 163 countries, representing 97 percent of the world's population, are members -- including the United States.

The Commission meets every two years, either at FAO headquarters in Rome or WHO headquarters in Geneva, and has had chairpersons from Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Indonesia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

They have developed general standards for the following topics:

  • Food labeling

  • Food additives

  • Contaminants

  • Methods of analysis and sampling

  • Food hygiene

  • Nutrition and foods for special dietary uses

  • Food import and export inspection and certification systems

  • Residues of veterinary drugs in foods

  • Pesticide residues in foods.

What's the Controversy About?

Codex Alimentarius

Codex, critics say, could prohibit the use of natural substances to prevent disease while raising the allowable level of pesticides, drugs and other toxins in our food. Meanwhile, it could allow genetically modified foods to exist worldwide.

On the surface, Codex Alimentarius sounds, indeed, like a measure to protect the public and ensure food safety around the globe. However, a growing number of health advocacy groups are claiming that Codex is not about safety or protection, but rather about eliminating "competition" for pharmaceutical, chemical and agribusiness corporations.

They say that once Codex standards become law, consumers will have inferior food rules imposed upon them, while food standards and trade will be completely controlled worldwide. Meanwhile, according to critics, Codex may ultimately:

  • Prohibit the use of natural substances to prevent and treat disease

  • Legalize genetically modified organisms

  • Mandate antibiotics and hormones in animal feed

  • Raise the allowable level of pesticides, toxins and drugs in foods

  • Prohibit consumers from purchasing traditional herbs and medicines

Current Codex Issues

From April 30 to May 4, the 35th Meeting of the Codex Committee on Food Labeling is taking place in Ottawa, Canada. Chief among the issues being discussed is the differences between international regulations of genetically modified (GM) foods.

While in the United States, for instance, GM foods do not need to be labeled, in Europe all GM ingredients must be labeled on food packages. Of course, this poses a trade problem between the United States (which produces many GM crops) and Europe, which does not want to import them.

In order to "harmonize" global standards according to Codex, one of these countries would have to change (and, critics say, the pressure is already on Europe to do just that).

Recommended Reading

So Now What Exactly Does Certified Organic Mean? Is it Really Organic?

Is Pasteurization More of a Health Risk or a Safety Benefit?

Sources April 25, 2007

What You Can do About Codex, A Threat to Your Health Freedom

The Dr. Rath Health Foundation

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