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January 14, 2002
BERLIN--During its meeting here in late November, the CodexAlimentarius Commission's (CAC) Committee on Nutrition and Foods for SpecialDietary Uses was unable to resolve some key issues regarding the establishmentof guidelines for the manufacture and sale of dietary supplements around theglobe. Among the issues under discussion were what ingredients could be includedin dietary supplements and the question of establishing limits for nutrientlevels.
The committee considered a proposal that would have included medicinal herbsin the scope of the Codex guidelines; however, the group determined that thematter was best left to each country "since the regulation and practices inthis area greatly differed from one country to another." The committee willcontinue to review only vitamin and mineral supplements under its guidelines.
The second unresolved issue concerned establishing limits for nutrient levelsin vitamin and mineral supplements. According to the Codex report, there was a"lengthy debate" on the issue. "Some delegations proposed toretain the maximum level at 100 percent of the recommended daily intake, whilesome other delegations and observers were of the opinion that this level shouldbe higher in order to provide more benefits for consumers; that the upper levelshould be established on the basis of risk assessment and should consider allsources of the nutrients." Because of the ongoing debate, the committee isretaining the sections under discussion for further comment, while noting that arisk-based approach should be followed for the establishment of upper limits formicronutrients.
The International Alliance of Dietary Supplement Associations (IADSA) issueda statement after the meeting expressing its disappointment that the issuescould not be resolved. "The guidelines ... still do not clearly define therole and possible content of food supplements and currently imply that vitaminsand minerals are the only permitted ingredients," it noted. While IADSA wasconcerned that another year will pass before there is further progress on theguidelines, it was pleased that there will be an international review of safetyas a key to establishing appropriate maximum intake levels.
Opponents of Codex's attempt to promulgate supplement guidelines were cheeredby the fact that the discussion remains at the early level of comments. MatthiasRath, M.D., has been an outspoken opponent of Codex's work in this area; he helda symposium in Berlin immediately prior to the Codex meeting to discuss hisconcerns. "What is needed is consumer protection from the dangers ofsynthetic pharmaceutical drugs," Rath said. "Not from vitamins andother nutrients that are essential for health and life."
Codex operates under the aegis of the World Health Organization and UnitedNations. The next session of the Committee on Nutrition and Foods for SpecialDietary Uses will be held in Berlin this November. Information is availableonline at www.codexalimentarius.netor www.fsis.usda.gov/OA/codex/index.htm.
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