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Life Extension Magazine

LE Magazine February 1996

The International Threat to Health Freedom

The Insider's Guide To Illegal and Unconstitutional Acts by The FDA
The International Threat To Health Freedom
By John Hamell, Political Coordinator, Life Extension Foundation

image Consumers of dietary supplements now face an ominous, new threat that is invisible to most people. My purpose here is to alert you to the nature of the threat and urge you to to become active in fighting against it.

Most of you have never heard of the United Nation/World Health Organization's Codex Alimentarious Commission (CODEX), in part because they hold their meetings in Rome, Italy. Very little has appeared about CODEX in newsletters and magazines read by people interested in vitamins, alternative medicine and health freedom, but it may be the greatest threat to health freedom in the world today!

What is the Codex Commission?

Remember the GATT Treaty to foster international trade? Well, congress mindlessly gave away a large chunk of U.S. sovereignty by signing this 3,000 page treaty, which has given decisions made on an international level considerable influence over our internal affairs.

Under GATT, the nations of the world can be penalized heavily by the World Trade Organization if they oppose the decisions of obscure international commissions like Codex (which are influenced heavily by large multinational corporations)

Under GATT, member nations (such as the U.S) must "harmonize" their rules governing the manufacture of health and medical products with new international standards so as to be "in line" with them.

A Matter Of "Choice"

Each nation can either accept the dictates of the Codex Alimentarious Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses regarding labeling and manufacture of dietary supplements, or it can create its own standards -- provided they conform to GATT's standards on cost/benefit analysis and on creating and reviewing scientific data for risk assessment.

The Penalties

Any nation which does not accept me Codex standards for dietary supplements can be heavily sanctioned (fined) by the World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO will have the right to levy enormous fines on any nation that gets "out of line" with the potential ability to cripple entire sectors of that nation's economy !

How The Codex Commission Works

At their last meeting, the Codex Commission's Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses was comprised of 18 representing either countries or international organization. The Commission meets every two years. Any delegate can propose a change in Codex standards. That proposal then runs through a review period, in which every delegate submits formal comments in response to the new proposal, with votes occurring at various stages in the process. If the proposal goes through this process unscathed, it becomes part of the official Codex Alimentarious.

The German Proposal for Codex

The problem is that the German delegation has proposed radical changes in the rules governing dietary supplements which, if passed and implemented, would require a doctor's prescription for the vast majority of dietary supplements now available in this country

Called "Proposed Draft Guidelines for Dietary Supplements", the German plan calls for the following:

  1. No dietary supplement can be sold for prophylactic (preventive) use or therapeutic use;
  2. No dietary supplement sold as food can exceed potency (dosage) levels set by the commission;
  3. Codex regulations for dietary supplements would become binding, (which means that the escape within GATT that allows a nation to set its own standards would be eliminates);
  4. All new dietary supplements would automatically be banned unless they go through Codex approval process.

What Can We Do About This?

Clearly, we cannot expect much help from Congress because Congress has already given away much of its legal power to deal with the issue. Instead of a legislative body that was voted into power (and can be voted out of power), we now have a situation where the single U.S. delegate to this international commission can be outvoted by delegates from other countries where the dietary supplement industry has much less power than in the U.S.

Who Are The Codex Delegates?

Foundation attorney Suzanne Harris has reviewed a partial list of international organizations "allowed" to send delegates to the Codex Committee, and found that more than 90% of them are organizations that represent giant multinational pharmaceutical corporations! The only "consumer" organization she saw listed is the "International Organization of Consumers Unions", which means that right now the general public here has zero representation on this important committee!

Thus far, the sole U.S. delegate to Codex has been Elizabeth A. Yetley, Ph.D, R.D, of the FDA. Ironically, she has actually been on our side (because of political pressure in the U.S.), but it hasn't done much good. The vote went 16-2 against health freedom and in favor of the draconian German proposal!

Where Do We Stand?

Two steps have already been taken in the Codex process. We are now at "Step 3", in which the proposal is going to be formalized and written responses and debate over its specific features will be undertaken.

Sometime in 1996, another meeting of the Codex Committee will take place in Bonn, Germany. The U.S. will be allowed to send up to 30 delegates to this meeting. The Foundation has applied to the FDA to be one of them. LEF has retained Suzanne Harris to draft comments on the issue, which we will submit to the FDA before the Nov. 30 deadline. Harris is an expert on GATT and a long time proponent of health freedom.

FDA To Schedule Public Hearing

After November 30, the FDA will review all comments and will can a public hearing wherein interested persons and organizations will have the opportunity to discuss and question Codex and the U.S position on Codex.

At the condition of the public hearing, the FDA will draft a final U.S. position paper that will be submitted to the next Codex meeting in Bonn sometime next year. The U.S. paper will be highly influential in shaping the final proposed regulations at the five day meeting.

LEF has also retained Ron Birckhead of Bergen, Norway to be our European liaison in our fight against Codex. With Suzanne Harris' assistance we are working to build an International Coalition Against Codex. At the end of this article, there are institutions about how you can assist us with this project.

Birckhead is famous in Europe as a champion of health freedom. An American, Ron has run a vitamin distributorship in Norway for years. During this period, he has had to deal with restrictive regulations identical to those now proposed under Codex. (The Norwegian regulations were put forth according to an agreement among the Scandinavian countries based upon WHO guidelines).

The Norwegian Health Institute

Birckhead established the Norwegian Health Institute to furnish health freedom information to Norwegian citizens via newsletter and fax and as advised health food companies by the media or by the Norwegian FDA. He has translated Norwegian regulations for lawyers, lobbyists embassies and businesses working for health freedom in Europe and U.S.

In 1992, the Norwegian FDA redefined vitamin C powder and Vitamin E powder as "drugs" and directed Birckhead to "stop importing and selling these products or face jail and/or fines". They attacked Birckhead in the media claiming that he had been selling medicines illegally.

According to official documents from the Norwegian Natural Medicine Association ( a privately owned "health food" trade group financed by multinational pharmaceutical companies), which was behind the effort to outlaw Vitamin C and E in powder form.

Birckhead Fights Back

Birckhead hired an attorney and fought back on the premise that dietary supplements are not medicines. He published an article in a newsletter, which he sent to all the health food stores in the country, sending shock waves throughout the Norwegian Health Food Industry because because no one had ever fought back before! (in Europe, hardly anyone ever dares oppose the government).

Birckhead won after a year's long battle, but warns us that unless we fight very hard, the international drug cartel will turn America in to another version of Norway, where many vitamins are sold as "prescription drugs" at grossly inflated prices, and health food stores are only allowed to sell a few supplements at RDA levels. This will be our fate if we fail to beat Codex.

Why you Didn't hear About Codex Earlier?

The reason I didn't alert LIFE EXTENSION magazine readers in time to write letters to the FDA prior to the October 18th deadline for consumers to respond was because I didn't now about Codex until the deadline had passed. The Codex draft was leaked to me by an insider who prefers to remain anonymous. We weren't supposed to know about it.

It's important to realize that, along with Codex, legislative attacks against health freedom are occurring throughout the world, with anit-dietary supplement legislation pending in Canada (Bill C-7), England, and several other countries.

The FDA is expected to come out with especially harsh anti-supplement rules in late December under DSHEA, which puts added importance on working to get cosponsors for H.R. 1951 (The Food and Dietary Consumer Information Act of 1995) and on getting a Senate cosponsor for the bill.

H.R. 1951 plugs the gaping holes in DSHEA, and is badly needed, especially with Codex looming on the grass roots strength to keep the government from adopting the devastating Codex guidelines.

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