CODEX, CAFTA, EU Directive... a special edition...

July 2005, Warren Matthews

Summary

You have no doubt seen headlines over the last week which if believed would spell the end of access to dietary supplements in the EU, as a result of the EU Directive on Food Supplements being upheld by the European Court. I have seen these news items from respectable and normally responsible news outlets suggesting that about 5,000 supplements will disappear off the shelves in Europe as from the 1st Aug 2005.

I was going to leave commenting on these issues for another couple of weeks whilst the 'dust continues to settle' and the situation becomes clearer, but because of a large number of emails and telephone calls that we have had from concerned customers about their continued access to our products, I thought that it was appropriate that I made some comment earlier, hence this blog.

All I am doing is trying to present the truth about CODEX and the various other regulatory issues that are going to affect dietary supplements throughout the world.

Long time readers know that I am not a fan of pharmaceutical companies due to the havoc and misery that some of their drugs cause unnecessarily. But on the other hand I don't see a 'conspiracy' under 'every rock' or, 'shoot from the hip' upon reading a newspaper headline.

Let me give you a classic example of what is happening right now in the area of misinformation.

You have no doubt seen headlines over the last week which if believed would spell the end of access to dietary supplements in the EU, as a result of the EU Directive on Food Supplements being upheld by the European Court. I have seen these news items from respectable and normally responsible news outlets suggesting that about 5,000 supplements will disappear off the shelves in Europe as from the 1st Aug 2005.

This set up a panic situation in the UK in particular and people have been ordering products frantically in order to try and get their supplements before the 1st Aug.

Is there any justification for the panic? No, not at all.

Most of the media and indeed many people in the industry have misread the judgment of the European Court. These are the facts in a nutshell:

The EU Directive on Food Supplements was upheld contrary to expectations given that earlier this year the Advocate General deemed the proposed Directive illegal. The Directive was significantly modified in favor of natural supplements. The positive list only applies to chemical substances such as certain vitamins etc. The natural form of vitamins (non synthetic) do not have to be included in the list and are unaffected, Ingredients that are currently found naturally in food (and this is the case with most supplements) also do not have to be included in the 'positive' list. There will be a maximum level for vitamins and minerals but that has not been determined as yet.

The Courts ruling was a direct blow to pharmaceutical interests and a victory for the natural supplement industry. But if much of the media is to be believed it was the death knell of the supplement industry.

However, I must say that the outcome may well have been different if it had not been for the efforts of many competent campaigners, and in particular the Alliance for Natural Health.

There is a lot more work for these campaigners to do in helping set sensible follow on regulations. Plus there is other legislation looming in the EU which could potentially be damaging to the freedom of access to supplements... but that is another story which is still unfolding.

Now, over to CODEX

Whereas the EU Directive was limited to Europe, CODEX has far reaching implications worldwide!

Like the EU Directive on Food Supplements there have been all sorts of stories floating around the internet on how CODEX is going to 'kill' the supplement industry worldwide and consumers, particularly Americans will lose their access to supplements. This is both true and false! True that in a year's time when the maximum upper limits have been set for vitamins and minerals some products will no longer be freely available, false, in that most supplements will not be affected.

The upper limits have not yet been determined (in spite of some figures being distributed based purely on speculation) and there are many organizations that will be making submissions to ensure that the limits are reasonable and realistic.

The area of potential concern is for those people who are suffering from some form of chronic illness and are being treated with mega doses of certain vitamins/minerals... but, for the overwhelming majority of people mega doses are not desirable.

It may be that for those people who are chronically ill that they will need a prescription to access mega doses of certain vitamins, much the same way as that required for some of the vitamins currently, niacin, folic acid etc. For those people who are not in dire need of these mega doses the main effect that it will have on them is economic. They will have to buy more and double or triple the dose if they want to overdo it. They will still be able to get them.

HOWEVER, bear in mind that CODEX will not apply to all countries even if they are members of the WTO. For example, it will not apply to Canada where dietary supplements are regulated as complimentary medicines.

The CODEX regulations are specific in that the rules ONLY apply in countries where the supplements are regulated as food. Of course, that means the USA.

What about CAFTA then?

There is a lot of concern about this in the USA at present because it is argued that if this goes ahead it will force the US to adopt CODEX and override local regulations. This is of course a real possibility and cause for concern, particularly for those producers and consumers of high dose vitamins.

However, that obstacle could be overcome by changing the classification of dietary supplements in the US to complimentary medicines. However, this is obviously not an easy thing to do.

Of much greater concern than CAFTA or CODEX in the US at the moment is the proposed H.R. 3156 The Dietary Supplement Access & Awareness Act This could have serious long term implications in the US if passed and all US consumers should object to it rigorously. This proposed amendment seems to be based on questionable data.

OK... so what's the bottom line?

There is an ongoing battle between the advocates of natural products and remedies and the 'mainstream' advocates of drug based medicine. The battle is far from over and I personally believe that the natural products lobby will ultimately win the day... providing the level of consumer awareness continues to grow and the issues are kept in the forefront.

There is no place for complacency but in order to be effective consumers must take action based on facts, not hype stirred up by those people who seem to thrive on panic and the negative.

There is no immediate risk of losing your access to supplements in the foreseeable future and providing the pressure is kept on the law makers, any future restrictions may well be minimal... so, for now be vigilant, aware and active... but remain positive.

In good health with peace of mind.

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