What is Codex?
The Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex) is the main global body that makes proposals to, and is consulted by, the Directors-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) on all matters pertaining to the implementation of the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme. Established in 1963, the Commission’s main purposes are stated in its Procedural Manual as being: protecting the health of consumers; ensuring fair practices in the food trade; and promoting coordination of all food standards work undertaken by international governmental and non-governmental organizations. Unfortunately however, and as we shall see, its activities do not protect the health of consumers and the international food trade is anything but fair.
At the time of writing, the Commission presides over a total of 27 active subsidiary committees and ad hoc intergovernmental task forces, the main functions of which revolve around the drafting of standards, guidelines and other related texts for foods, including food supplements. Once completed these texts are presented to the Commission for final approval and adoption as new global standards.
How does Codex affect you and your health?
Whilst the adoption by countries of the various standards and guidelines developed by Codex is theoreticallyoptional, the creation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on 1 January 1995 essentially changed their international status, in that they are now increasingly used by the WTO as the benchmark in the adjudication of international trade disputes involving foods. As such, the potential threat of becoming involved in – and losing – such a dispute now effectively makes the adoption of Codex guidelines and standards mandato