South Africa Opposes Codex Rule on Food Health Information








The international food standard setting body, Codex Alimentarius has been deliberating a giudeline to determine what information food product labels may contain. The draft guideline, which is ready to be adopted at the next meeting of the Codex Alimentarius Commission in Geneva, Switzerland, to be held from 28 June to 3 July 2004, says that no information may be given regarding any food's effects for the prevention, alleviation or cure of any disease.

South Africa has asked to change the wording of the guideline, as clearly scientific evidence shows that foods do have disease preventive and even curative properties. Governments the world over recommend that we eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables a day, to prevent cancer and other diseases. Scurvy, which killed many sailors, could only be prevented when skippers realized that citrus fruits contained some element that was vital for health.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation, which is the "parent organization" of Codex, has published a report on food and the prevention of chronic diseases.

The question is: why, if eating certain foods is important for the prevention of disease, are we not allowed to know? Is big pharma consolidating a monopoly for anything to do with disease?

See the arguments of the South African Codex delegation regarding disease prevention claims (information to consumers) for foood.

Comments from South Africa to the Codex Commission

CL 2004/22-FL
Draft Guideline for Use of Nutrition and Health Claims at step 8 for adoption by the Commission

South Africa is concerned that a Draft Guideline is presented for adoption at Step 8 that contains a section that is no longer sustainable because of overwhelming scientific evidence that contradicts the message of this section. Since Codex adopted the principle that Standards and Guidelines should be based on scientific evidence, the above-mentioned Guideline should not be adopted at Step 8 with this section still in operation.

In the following documents, the WHO, acknowledges the role of "diet and nutrition in the prevention of chronic diseases", and the "promotion of optimal nutrition among consumers through adequate labelling and the use of health claims, to assist them in making the right choices":

1. "WHO Technical Report on Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases" (2003)

2. WHO's Director-General's report of the Joint FAO/WHO evaluations of the work of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Fifty sixth World Health Assembly Provisional agenda 14.19, reference A 56/34, dated 3 April 2004), paragraph 23. In paragraph 17 the Director-General noted that the Codex Commission recommends that the scope of the Commission should also fully cover health-related aspects of food standards.

In our opinion two Codex Committee's failed to implement this policy recommendation of science-based decisions, namely CCNFSDU 2003 and CCFL 2004 by not acknowledging -

1. In the case of CCNFSDU 2003: The use of the wording "prevention of chronic diseases" in the preamble to the document Proposed Draft Guidelines for Vitamin and Mineral supplements", based on an outdated clause in the Codex general Guidelines on Claims (CAC/GL 1-1979 (Rev. 1-1991) which prohibits claims as to the suitability of a food for use in the prevention, alleviation, treatment or cure of a disease; and

2. In the case of CCFL 2004: The revision of the Codex general Guidelines on Claims (CAC/GL 1-1979 (Rev. 1-1991) to update the abovementioned clause to reflect the latest scientific evidence that nutrients can heal nutritional deficiency diseases and certain metabolic disorders, can prevent chronic diseases and can be used as an alternative option in the treatment of some diseases.

WHO finds it acceptable to use the word "diseases" when referring to diet and nutritional policies which are within the scope of Codex Alimentarius. In other words, the fact that foods and nutrients can prevent diseases and in some cases cure diseases (e.g., classical deficiency diseases and certain metabolic disorders) do not make these foods and nutrients medicines from a scientific point of view.

Dictations from national legislation should not be permitted to influence and allow incorrect statements in a global Guideline.

South Africa recommends that the Draft Guideline for Use of Nutrition and Health Claims not be adopted at step 8 by the Commission and that section 3.4 of the Codex general Guidelines on Claims (CAC/GL 1-1979 (Rev. 1-1991) which prohibits claims as to the suitability of a food for use in the prevention, alleviation, treatment or cure of a disease be revised to correctly reflect scientific evidence.

See also related:

UK supermarkets prosecuted for healthy-eating claims

Codex: Labelling Committee Asked to Allow Information on Food Preventive Effects

Prevention Prohibited - Homus Pharmaceuticus Reigns Supreme

Health Claims in Europe - New Regulation Coming

Codex Alimentarius - Optimizing Nutrient Intakes

Codex Alimentarius – A threat to your vitamin supplements?

Codex 2003 - Grossklaus and Mathioudakis: Nutrition not relevant to Health

South Africa breaks ranks at Codex Nutrition Committee