Health Supreme by Sepp Hasslberger

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May 25, 2004

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

The Codex Alimentarius Committee on Food Labelling in its recent meeting in Montreal, Canada, heard a proposal of the Republic of South Africa, to re-think its rules which prohibit food manufacturers saying or implying that a food may aid in the prevention or cure of a disease.

Although various foods clearly do prevent and even cure diseases, any claims for such effects are strictly limited to pharmaceutical products registered as medicines.

The South African proposal to the labelling committee of Codex points out this inconsistency and argues that the rules should be revised; that it should be possible to inform people about the health properties of foods by indicating on food labels what is increasingly obvious from the results of scientific studies.

Unfortunately the proposal of South Africa did not find agreement in the Codex Committee. The representatives of other Codex member countries did not believe that the medical/pharmaceutical monopoly on cure and prevention could or should be challenged.

Please take a moment to read the proposal and the responses it received from the other members of the committee. If you do not agree that the information about food and health should be withheld from consumers, there IS something you can do: Contact your country's Codex Alimentarius representation and ask them what their viewpoint is on food and prevention of disease. Engage your health authorities in a discussion of this subject. Try to find out whether they are willing to concede that the maxim "let your food be your medicine" is as relevant today as it was when Hippocrates coined it.

Read the South African proposal and the discussion in Committee here:





Thirty-second Session
Montréal, Canada, 10-14 May 2004






(12TH May 2004)
Thank you Madam Chair,

In searching for the truth, South Africa wishes to propose a revision of the Codex General Guidelines on Claims (CAC/GL 1-1979) which was revised in 1991, and specifically point 3.4 that prohibits “Claims as to the suitability of a food for use in the prevention, alleviation, treatment or cure of a disease.”

Thirteen years have passed since the last revision of these guidelines. In this time a huge body of scientific information has become available to prove without dispute that point 3.4 is no longer sustainable or morally justifiable considering Codex’s mandate that when setting forth a standard or guideline, Codex Committees must base all decisions on scientific evidence.

Scientific evidence now proves beyond a doubt that food and nutrients can offer an alternative option in the prevention, alleviation and cure of disease.

Nutritional ‘cures’ include classical deficiency diseases and metabolic disorders. Taking into account the role of genetic dispositions, environmental factors and pathogenic diseases, the onset of most chronic diseases of lifestyle can be either be prevented or alleviated by the use of optimal nutrition.

Madam Chair, In the title of the W.H.O document “W.H.O Technical Report on Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases” (2003) the W.H.O also acknowledges the fact that nutrition plays a role in the prevention of chronic diseases. We must remember that the W.H.O is a parent body of Codex Alimentarius.

In our written proposal before you, (CX-FL 04-11) we refer to other science-based examples of evidence where nutrition provides a safe and effective alternative option to conventional medical intervention. We want to emphasize that these examples represent only a small selection of balanced scientific opinions contained in reputable, international, peer-reviewed medical journals.

In this proposal we wish to emphasize that nutrients, as essential facilitators in human physiology, rightfully belong within the scope of Codex Alimentarius Committees such as the CCFL and the CCNFSDU. We emphasize that Codex deals with food and nutrition, despite the ‘perceived’ overlapping characteristics of nutrients and medicines in terms of their healing properties.

The principles of biochemistry and cellular physiology clearly demonstrate the essential role of nutrients and food constituents at optimal levels in maintaining and preserving health, including the prevention, alleviation, treatment and even cure of disease.

Continuing to allow clause 3.4 to exist in these guidelines in this 21st century, denies consumers the right to take responsibility for their own health. By not allowing for these life-saving statements, South Africa truly believes that Codex is indirectly misleading the public at large. For the majority of nutritionally uneducated consumers, food labels may be their only source of information in making an informed choice.

Nutrients act mainly as prophylaxis by assisting the body to heal itself in supporting the mechanism of biochemical homeostasis on the cellular level, while most medicines are designed to address existing pathological conditions on a symptomatic basis without affecting a sustainable, permanent cure. Nutrients nourish and heal simultaneously - a characteristic which is certainly not true for any medicine.

Madam Chair, if we consider the purpose of food fortification, it is to prevent diseases such as mental retardation in the case of Iodine deficiency, blindness in the case if Vitamin A deficiency, and in the case of Folic Acid deficiency in Neural Tube Defects etc.

According to the UNICEF document – A Global Progress Report of 2003 – vitamin and mineral deficiencies contribute to the impairment of hundreds of millions of growing minds and the lowering of national IQ’s. It means wholesale damage to immune systems and the deaths of 1 million children per year, as well as 250 000 serious birth defects annually. A simple cure in the form of food fortification or nutritional supplementation could have prevented these tragic diseases, yet Codex denies these facts by allowing a non sustainable clause such as 3.4 referred to previously. We want to emphasize that these solutions are nutritional solutions and NOT medical solutions.

In allowing this clause to remain in this Codex Guideline, this committee evades its responsibility to people of this planet, by censoring evidence-based scientific information of the role of nutrition in prevention, alleviation, treatment and cure of disease.

For several years now CCFL has worked on a document called “Health Claims”. The principle that nutrition can prevent, enhance, improve and in certain instances, cure illness, is already embodied in the definitions for “Other function claims” and “Reduction of disease risk claims”.

Taking into account these facts Madam Chair, the question this committee must consider today is:

Are we fully prepared to acknowledge the role of optimum nutrition in the prevention, alleviation, treatment and cure of disease, and thereby acknowledge the Codex principle of basing its standards and guidelines on science?

Thank you Madam Chair.



Committee members, you have heard this proposal from South Africa and wish ask committee members as to their opinion on the proposal … um …. which in fact if it was fully supported would mean that we would have to put a question to the Commission as to whether we engage in new work on this subject. That is the issue before you, and now I open the floor.

Mexico please….


Thank you Madam Chair

I must say that this document was circulated with very little fore notice for this meeting and further more, the version in Spanish was done in with - lets just call it honestly a very bad translation.

In the document some paragraphs remain in English and there are a number of errors throughout the whole document. All of this means that we could not consider it in great detail. In our committee of the national level we can not give it a favorable opinion at this stage. However we can say in that general terms in Mexico, there is a great concern, because consumers tend to stop taking their medication on the pretext of taking in some foods and supplements, instead of their medication.

This we believe would lead to serious public health problems.

The examples that we see in the document do not refer to foods, but rather substances, …. which can help with the treatment of certain diseases and illness.

But, these substances are dealt in Mexico as if they are medications and not as foods. And therefore they have to comply with the formalities required for the registration of medicine.

So, even though we may recognize that some foods may have high concentrations of some of these substances … when their use is for therapeutic reason, it seems to us and it should be promoted more as a medicine rather than as a food.

So in this sense, we are not in the position to support this proposal for new work for this committee.

Thank you Madam Chair


Thank you Mexico, Ireland please.


Thank you Madam Chair.

I speak behalf of the member states of the EU.

This is certainly a fascinating paper … um … and I would like to stress to South Africa that the beverty of our response is not meant to be unreflecting on the amount of work that we feel has gone into this document, but the member states of the European Union do not support the proposal for the revision of 3.4 of the Codex General Guidelines on Claims as requested of South Africa.

Thank you.


Thank you, Australia please.


Thank you Madam Chair

Australia recognizes that food has an important role to play in chronic disease, but Australia does not support the proposed amendments to paragraph 3.4 in the Code …. Codex General Guidelines on Claims.

This paragraph is important generic delineator of claims appropriate to foods and those which are appropriate to medicines. Although the previously strong separation between foods and medicines are fading through the developments of Codex, such as the Health Claims Guidelines and the drafting of the Vitamin and Mineral Food Supplement Guidelines, it is important that we maintain a cautious approach.

These should be judged on a case-by-case basis, giving each national jurisdiction sovereignty over its own food - medicine interface.

Thank you.


Thank you Australia, New Zealand please.


I thank you Madam Chair.

New Zealand believes that if the Commission adopts the Guidelines to Health and Nutrition Claims, that a review of point 3.4 is necessary to provide consistency between the two areas, however we would say that we are not supportive of any claims which describe the role of foods and nutrients in the cure of any diseases.

Thank you.


Thank you New Zealand, Japan please.


Thank you Madam Chair.

We are of the opinion any substance which exclusively and specifically targets a disease or a medical condition, or to treat, is not a food but a pharmaceutical product.

Therefore for we believe that the proposal is outside of the mandate of Codex, and that the work should not be undertaken.

Thank you very much.


Thank you Japan, the US …. United States please.


Thank you Madam Chair.

We want to join with the other delegations that oppose work on this item.

Thank you.


Thank you. Brazil please.


Thank you Madam Chair.

Brazil does not support the review of this item, on the grounds that the Guidelines for Use of Health and Nutrition Claims … only allows claims that make reference to risk reduction of disease.

Thank you.


Thank you Brazil, Argentina please.


We are not able to support this point of view, basically because my country has many dietary supplements that are more in the pharmaceutical area than the food stuffs … and are taken or ingested as homoeopathic medication.


Thank you Argentina,

Well South Africa, thank you very much for preparing the paper and putting this issue before the Committee.

But, one last intervention … the Council for Responsible Nutrition please.


Thank you Madam Chair.

Um… At the November 2003 meeting of the Codex Committee for Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses, CRN described in a conference room document that nutrient disease relationships fall into three primary categories.

One, is the classic deficiency diseases. In these, nutrients do indeed prevent, treat and can cure disease.

But there is a much larger category …. or much larger number of diseases that are what I have termed Nutrient Responsive Diseases. These are certain chronic diseases that have their incidence or risk modified by dietary patterns and nutrient intakes. These certainly include obesity, hypertension, certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, and adult-onset diabetes.

And then there is a third category called Nutrients Used as Drugs. For these Nicotinic Acid is a prime example. It can be used as an effective drug in the treatment of hyperlipidemia, but dosages that make it unsafe for use casually as a nutrient.

It must be recognized that risk reduction for the individual, as allowed in health claims in several countries and in now the proposed documents being forwarded by this committee … these risk reductions in a population will lead to prevention of disease in a sizable number of individuals. We simply don’t know which individuals those are.

Thus, Codex should not categorically prohibit the term ‘prevent’ in Health Claims unless it is used as a promise to the individual.

It’s noteworthy in this context senior officials at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration … in the General Council Office for example … are using the word ‘prevent’ in exactly this context … in their public speeches, although I recognize that this has not yet made it way into U.S. regulations.

These factors lead CRN to support the concept of general principle that the Codex General Guidelines on Claims should be revised to accommodate the updated science.

Thank you Madam Chair.


Thank you for that intervention.

The International Alliance of Dietary Food Supplement Associations please.


Thank you madam chair.

The International Alliance of Dietary Food Supplement Associations would like to be associated comments expressed by CRN.


Thank you.

Well South Africa, I will come back to my summary on this.

I think Committee members appreciate that you put considerable work into preparing this brief, putting it before the Committee for perusal and comment, however there is clearly no support for your proposal, and therefore we will not be discussing this further.

Thank you once again for bringing this issue up … you have heard the opinion of Committee members who have spoken on this.

The written proposal of South Africa:

Thirty-second Session
Montréal, Canada, 10 – 14 May 2004

South Africa wishes to propose a revision of the Codex General Guidelines on Claims (CAC/GL 1-1979 (Rev. 1-1991), and specifically point 3.4 that prohibits "Claims as to the suitability of a food for use in the prevention, alleviation, treatment or cure of a disease, disorder, or particular physiological condition unless they are:

a) in accordance with the provisions of Codex standards or guidelines for foods under jurisdiction of the Committee on Foods for Special Dietary Uses and follow the principles set forth in these guidelines. or

b) in the absence of an applicable Codex standard or guideline, permitted under the laws of the country in which the food is distributed."

Thirteen years have passed since the last revision and a huge body of scientific information is now available to prove that the above-mentioned point 3.4 is no longer sustainable considering Codex’s mandate that when setting forth a standard or guideline Codex Committees must base all decisions on scientific evidence. Scientific evidence now proves beyond a doubt that food and nutrients can offer an alternative option in the treatment of disease, can prevent disease and in the case of classical deficiency diseases and metabolic disorders, can cure disease. A selection of abstracts totaling 1523 references (971 pages) from internationally reputable scientific peer-reviewed medical journals is available electronically upon request as substantiation. This information demonstrates conclusively that nutrients can be used for the prevention/treatment of the following diseases or medical conditions:

- Asthma
- Arthritis
- Adrenoleukodistrophy and other metabolic disorders such as maple syrup urine disease, phenylketonuria etc.
- Hypertension
- Osteoporosis
- Migraine
- Artherosclerosis
- Cholesterol reduction
- Constipation
- Bacterial infections
- Cardiac Arrythmias
- Acne
- Allergies
- Alzheimers disease
- Anxiety and stress
- Attention deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
- Multiple sclerosis
- Epilepsy
- Breast cancer
- Thyroid deficiency
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Glucoma
- Influenza virus
- Diabetes Mellitus
- Depression etc.; and

- ll the classical nutrient deficiency diseases such as scurvy, beri-beri, pellagra, ricketts, kwasiorkor etc.

Nutrients act mainly as prophylaxis, while medicines are designed to address existing pathological conditions. Nutrients nourish and heal simultaneously - a characteristic which is certainly not true for any medicine. A short summary of the nutrients that are implicated in the treatment of the above-mentioned diseases, excluding the well- documented classical nutrient deficiency diseases and metabolic disorders is attached.

At International level (Codex Alimentarius) nutrients are acknowledged as a food and not a medicine, notwithstanding their overlapping properties in terms of prevention and treatment of diseases. At the recent CCNFSDU meeting (25thSession), when the agenda item on Proposed Draft Guidelines for Vitamin and Mineral Supplements was discussed, South Africa proposed new wording in the preamble because they are convinced of the healing properties of nutrients: "Most people who have access to a balanced diet can usually obtain all the nutrients they require from their normal diet to prevent deficiencies. Because foods contain many substances that promote health and prevent chronic diseases, people should therefore be encouraged to select a healthy diet and supplement this diet with those nutrients for which the intake from the diet is insufficient to meet the requirements necessary for the prevention of chronic diseases and/or for the promotion of health beyond the demands of preventing micronutrient deficiencies."

In the title of the WHO document "WHO Technical Report on Diet, Nutrition and the Prevention of Chronic Diseases" (2003) the WHO also acknowledges the fact that nutrition plays a role in the prevention of chronic diseases. It is therefore the opinion of South African that inconsistencies exist within Codex because CCNFSDU objects to
the inclusion of the words "prevention of chronic diseases" in a Codex Guideline and Standard. The report (Alinorm 04/27/26) reads: "The CCNFSDU Committee noted the proposal of the Delegation of South Africa to amend the Preamble to highlight the role of vitamins and minerals in the prevention of Chronic diseases. The Committee however noted that claims related to the prevention of disease were prohibited according to the General Guidelines on Claims". It is difficult to understand how in a Nutrition Committee such as the CCNFDSU, nutrition can be considered so inferior to medicine in keeping people healthy, despite the fact that there is overwhelming evidence in reputable scientific literature proving that nutrition can prevent, enhance, improve and in certain instances cure illness.

For several years now CCFL has worked on a document called "Health Claims". The principle that nutrition can prevent, enhance, improve and in certain instances cure illness, is already embodied in the definitions for "Other function claims" and "Reduction of disease risk claims".

Other function claims means "These claims concern specific beneficial effects of the consumption foods or their constituents, in the context of the total diet on normal functions or biological activities of the body. Such claims relate to a positive contribution to health or to the improvement of a function or to modifying or preserving health.

"Reduction of disease risk claims means "Claims relating the consumption of a food or food constituent, in the context of the total diet to the reduced risk of developing a disease." As a compromise the following amendments are proposed for the above-mentioned point 3.4, although it is a false assumption that medicines can truly cure disease. In most cases the role of medicine in chronic disease is palliative and seeks to keep symptoms under control (e.g., asthma, hypertension, diabetes etc.) while often being unable to bring about permanent healing.


posted by Sepp Hasslberger on Tuesday May 25 2004
updated on Saturday September 24 2005

URL of this article:


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Readers' Comments

Codex Committee Shenanigans On Food Labelling

Posted by: Chris Gupta on May 25, 2004 07:33 PM


my boss asked me to search that CODEX has a committee on animal feed or not.
would you pls inform me about it.
looking forward your soon and kind reply.
best regards
babataher alizadeh

Posted by: babataher on January 11, 2005 12:18 PM


Thank you for your comment on an article of mine regarding Codex.

Searching through, I find some articles:

Joint FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex) Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Animal Feeding (link no longer active)

Codex Completes Next Round on Animal Feeding - 7/8 Feedstuffs

International Standards on Good Animal Feeding are on the Horizon


The ad hoc task force on animal feeds at Codex is hosted by Denmark:



Document Reference

Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Force on Animal Feeding

Terms of Reference
(a) To complete and extend the work already done by relevant Codex Committees on the Draft Code of Practice for Good Animal Feeding; (b) To address other aspects which are important for food safety, such as problems related to toxic substances, pathogens, microbial resistance, new technologies, storage, control measures, traceability, etc.; and, (c) To take full account of and collaborate with, as appropriate, work carried out by relevant Codex Committees, and other relevant international bodies, including FAO, WHO, OIE and IPPC.


Host Government


For detailed information, you may have to contact Codex Secretariat.

Go to the following page

at the bottom you will find contact information.

Kind regards

Posted by: Sepp on January 12, 2005 03:38 PM


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