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I've had a lot of questions about Codex, often
based on alarmist and erroneous information being
circulated on the Internet. I'm happy to set the
record straight. Here's the story: in 1963 the
United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization
and the World Health Organization created the
Codex Alimentarius Commission to protect the
health of consumers and to ensure fair practices
in the international food trade through
development of food standards, codes of practice,
guidelines and other recommendations.
For the past decade, Codex has been developing
guidelines for vitamins and mineral supplements
focusing on establishing new potency levels. Codex
completed its work in November 2004, and the
guidelines were adopted at the Commission's July
5, 2005 meeting.
This development has given rise to widespread
misunderstanding. The thrust of the wrong-headed
information being circulated on the Internet is
that the Codex guidelines will restrict the
availability of vitamins and minerals in the
United States. Even more fanciful is the claim
that once the Codex guidelines on vitamins and
minerals are adopted, supplements that exceed the
RDA will be available in the U.S. only by
prescription and that this "stealthy" takeover of
the supplement industry has been plotted in secret
by the pharmaceutical industry working underneath
None of this is true. First of all, the Codex
guidelines are non-binding on the United States
(or any other country) and do not override U.S.
law as many people claim (only Congress can change
U.S. law regarding supplements). This country's
participation in Codex is strictly voluntary. The
guidelines will not in any way affect the
availability of supplements to consumers in the
Here's what you should know about the Codex
- They're limited to vitamins and minerals
only, and do not extend to herbs and other
- Contrary to the circulating scare stories,
the guidelines do not set upper limits for
vitamins and minerals in supplements. Instead,
they specify that maximum amounts should be
established by scientific risk assessment, a
process that will now be undertaken by a panel
of scientific experts.
- There is nothing in the guidelines requiring
that supplements be sold as prescription drugs
in the United States or elsewhere.
As for the notion that the drug industry has
engineered the Codex guidelines in an effort to
take over the supplement market, the truth is that
some of the largest supplement manufacturers in
the U.S. already are owned by big pharmaceutical
firms or their parent companies.
Andrew Weil, M.D.
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