Its name is derived from the Codex Alimentarius Austriacus. Its texts are developed and maintained by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), a body that was established in early November 1961 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), was joined by the World Health Organization (WHO) in June 1962, and held its first session in Rome in October 1963. The Commission's main goals are to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in the international food trade. The Codex Alimentarius is recognized by the World Trade Organization as an international reference point for the resolution of disputes concerning food safety and consumer protection.
As of 2020, there were 189 members of the Codex Alimentarius Commission: 188 member countries and one member organization, the European Union (EU).. There were 237 Codex observers: 58 intergovernmental organizations, 163 non-governmental organizations, and 16 United Nations organizations.
The Codex Alimentarius covers all foods, whether processed, semi-processed or raw. In addition to standards for specific foods, the Codex Alimentarius contains general standards covering matters such as food labeling, food hygiene, food additives and pesticide residues, and procedures for assessing the safety of foods derived from modern biotechnology. It also contains guidelines for the management of official i.e. governmental import and export inspection and certification systems for foods.
The Codex Alimentarius has been the subject of various conspiracy theories. These accuse it of being an agenda for population control, an anti-supplement Big Brother initiative, of actually implementing eugenics, or a process for World Government establishment.
The controversy over the Codex Alimentarius relates to a perception that it is a mandatory standard for the safety of food, including vitamin and mineral supplements. Supporters of the Codex Alimentarius say that it is a voluntary reference standard for food and that there is no obligation on countries to adopt Codex standards as a member of either Codex or any other international trade organization. From the point of view of its opponents, however, one of the main causes of concern is that the Codex Alimentarius is recognized by the World Trade Organization as an international reference standard for the resolution of disputes concerning food safety and consumer protection. Proponents argue that the use of Codex Alimentarius during international disputes does not exclude the use of other references or scientific studies as evidence of food safety and consumer protection.
It is reported that in 1996 the German delegation put forward a proposal that no herb, vitamin or mineral should be sold for preventive or therapeutic reasons, and that supplements should be reclassified as drugs. The proposal was agreed, but protests halted its implementation. The 28th Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission was subsequently held July 4-9, 2005. Among the many issues discussed were the Guidelines for Vitamin and Mineral Food Supplements, which were adopted during the meeting as new global safety guidelines: The guidelines state that "people should...be encouraged to select a balanced diet from food before considering any vitamin and mineral supplement. In cases where the intake from the diet is insufficient or where consumers consider their diet requires supplementation, vitamin and mineral food supplements serve to supplement the daily diet." This text has been the subject of considerable controversy among proponents of dietary supplements. Many countries regulate such substances as therapeutic goods or pharmaceuticals or by some other category, without requiring them to be shown to be medically useful. The text does not seek to ban supplements, but subjects them to labeling and packaging requirements, sets criteria for the setting of maximum and minimum dosage levels, and requires that safety and efficacy are considered when determining ingredient sources. The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) will implement these criteria with "labelling to stop consumers overdosing on vitamin and mineral food supplements." The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) has said that the Guidelines call "for labelling that contains information on maximum consumption levels of vitamin and mineral food supplements." The WHO has also said that the Guidelines "ensure that consumers receive beneficial health effects from vitamins and minerals."
In 2004, similarities were noted between the EU's Food Supplements Directive and the Codex Alimentarius draft guidelines for vitamin and mineral supplements'. Additional controversy has been expressed by proponents of ecologically and socially sustainable agriculture and food systems, such as the Slow Food movement, although the Slow Food movement has become more closely aligned with the EU. In addition, the Manifesto on the Future of Food stated that "bureaucracies like the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Codex Alimentarius have codified policies designed to serve the interests of global agribusiness above all others, while actively undermining the rights of farmers and consumers".
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