Fresh Clips: Conspiracy to Ban Herbs?

| June/July 2010

Since the Codex Alimentarius Commission was formed in 1963, the group has been suspected of conspiracy. Consumers were alarmed that this international regulatory Codex, adopted by the World Trade Organization, would limit their choice in dietary supplements. The controversy keeps popping up online, where outdated information plagues worried readers.

Over the years, consumers have been concerned that this group would force legislation on the United States. The topic is especially inflammatory because, although not related to the Codex, the concern—limited access to supplements—is valid. Confounding the issue is the easy e-mail and long-term data storage of the Internet. According to , the ubiquitous online myth-busters, two versions of a bill proposing the regulation of dietary supplements that were introduced in 2003 (but not even voted on) gave rise to a 2005 e-mail that continues to circulate, warning that, “your right to choose your vitamin, mineral and other supplements may end.”

The Codex doesn’t really affect dietary supplements, as most countries treat them as drugs. The United States puts vitamins and minerals in the food category, but that is a unique regulatory category. Ultimately, the Codex, formed by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), is a standardizing force in the international trade of food goods. 

It does not trump national regulations, but affects harmonization of international trade. The Codex has developed standards related to foods and guidelines for limits on heavy metals, food additives, pesticides and contaminants in international trade. Sources such as the American Herbal Products Association ( ) and the Natural Products Association ( )—trade associations whose members have a real interest in selling products—give explanations of the Codex to calm consumers’ and manufacturers’ fears. Search “Codex” on the websites for more information.

Steven Foster is an expert on medicinal plants.

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