The Vitamin Police Are Suiting Up

The Codex Alimentarius Commission, an offshoot of the United Nations, is working to “harmonize” food and supplement rules between all nations of the world. Under Codex rules, even basic vitamins and minerals will require a doctor’s prescription. As Europe moves ever closer to adopting Codex standards, it becomes more likely that the World Trade Organization will attempt to force those standards on the United States. This is yet another example of how the WTO threatens American sovereignty.

~ Congressman Ron Paul

The United Nations has longed for international sovereignty over member nations ever since its inception in 1945. Now it is beginning to achieve this indirectly through the World Trade Organization (WTO), which possesses the authority to impose negative sanctions on its members. The United States is a member.

The WTO will soon be acting on behalf of the United Nations’ World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). These two UN organizations have jointly run the Codex Alimentarius Commission for over four decades. Codex alimentarius is Latin for “food rules.”

The Commission is about to hand down comprehensive new standards for vitamins and food supplements. It has posted its agenda on-line for its meeting on July 4—9. There will be a session: Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a Codex Alimentarius subdivision, which has a Web site dedicated to this topic. Here, we learn that there will be a public meeting, held on the day that the international meeting concludes: July 9. It is unlikely that this meeting will be able to report much on the international meeting. It is possible that the new standards will be issued on July 9 or shortly thereafter.

The international meeting is shrouded in silence, if not deliberate secrecy. There is nothing on these official sites that reveals what is about to be unveiled. The paranoia of the Director of the Codex Commission is obvious. On the home page of the site, which reveals almost nothing, we read:

Disclaimer: The Secretariat of the Codex Alimentarius Commission declines all responsibility for errors or deficiencies in the documentation provided from this website, for maintenance and upgrading of the website as well as for any damage that may arise from them. The Secretariat of the Codex Alimentarius Commission also declines any responsibility for updating the data and assumes no responsibility for errors and omissions in the data provided. Users are, however, kindly asked to report any errors or deficiencies of the web site to the Secretariat of the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

I have never seen a disclaimer this comprehensive on any website. These words stand out: “deficiencies in the documentation provided from this website.”

The Food and Agriculture Organization is a little more open about what is coming. We read on its website:

However, Codex activities of the future will differ considerably from what they have been until now. Scientific developments in fields relating to food, changing attitudes of consumers, new approaches to food control, changing perceptions of government and food industry responsibilities and changing food quality and safety concepts will present the Commission with new challenges and, conceivably, the need for new standards.

On this same page, we are referred to another page:*/esn/codex. I went to this page. I was informed: “The Web server cannot find the file you asked for ‘*/esn/codex‘. The likely cause is a recent re-structuring of some parts of the FAO Internet site. Please go to the WAICENT Information Finder where you will find convenient tools to help you to locate the desired file.”

I went to WAICENT. There was a search box. I searched for Codex Alimentarius nutrition. I got a page full of links. I clicked every link. Not one of them worked.

These are the experts who are about to makes us safe from excessive vitamins. They have figured out what we must not be allowed to ingest, but they cannot figure out how to hire someone who can run a website.


We get a better picture of what is involved from the British government’s website on the Codex. Here, we read:

The European Commission has been negotiating community membership of Codex for some years, and this has now been achieved. The basis in Community law was established and the necessary rule changes in Codex have been made. The Commission wrote to the Director-General of the UN/FAO in November 2003 to formally complete the accession process. This means that the European Commission has relinquished its observer status in Codex and now represents all EU countries on matters of EU competence.

By way of the European Commission, which possesses political sovereignty, trade policy by the WTO will be extend the Codex’s standards to all WTO member nations. This of course assumes that the WTO will establish some compromise of the various member nations’ versions of the Codex.

The point is, up until now, implementation by national governments has been voluntary. National governments did not have to accept the Codex. But now, through the WTO, all of it can be forced on member nations if the WTO accepts the Codex.

The illusion of voluntarism has been maintained for a decade. This was easy to do. Until the creation of the WTO, the Codex was voluntary. The United Nations rarely exercises its sovereignty except in cases of war. But the kid gloves can now come off at any time. To understand this, consider the careful commentary of Paul Anthony Taylor. (The documentation is on the site.)

Whilst it may be technically true for the WTO to say that “there is no legal obligation on Members to apply Codex standards, guidelines and recommendations,” the reality is that Codex texts are used by the WTO as a means of resolving international trade disputes, and WTO Members are legally obliged to abide by WTO rulings. Once the Codex Guidelines for Vitamin and Mineral Food Supplements are completed therefore, all it would take to begin enacting them globally would be for one of the participating countries to launch, and win, an international trade dispute. The global adjudicators in such an instance would be the WTO Dispute Settlement Body, some of the hearings for which take the form of closed meetings held in private. Appeals to Dispute Settlement Body rulings are possible, but they have to be based on points of law such as legal interpretation — they cannot re-examine existing evidence or examine new issues.

Theoretically, there are three levels of acceptance for Codex texts, namely; `full acceptance’; `acceptance with specified deviations’; and `free distribution’ (which means that the country concerned undertakes that products conforming with a Codex Standard may be distributed freely within its territorial jurisdiction, while domestically produced products sold within its own borders remain unaffected). The `free distribution’ option has led many people to mistakenly believe that Codex does not have the authority to impose anything on a country in terms of domestically produced products sold into its own internal market. However, because Codex standards are used by the WTO to resolve international trade disputes, WTO members can literally have Codex Guidelines and Standards forced upon them, irrespective of acceptance.

Rima Laibow, M.D., claims to have read 15,000 pages of proposed standards issued by Codex. In a posting on April 27, 2005, Dr. Laibow reinforced Taylor’s warning.

The logic says, “CODEX ALIMENTARIUS is a set of standards only for international trade, not a law and not a treaty.” That is true as far as it goes. However, once accepted, its standards can be enforced both domestically and internationally. At the international levels, a complaining country can take another nation into the “Dispute Resolution” process of the WTO. If the complaining country prevails, CODEX standard are then enforced in the loosing country through trade sanctions, chosen by the affronted country, and imposed by the WTO, of which we are treaty members.

But there is another layer to the web of control which CODEX throws over every nation in the WTO: as part of our treaty obligation to the WTO we have signed the Sanitary and Phytosanitary agreement or SPSA. Clause 3 of that document makes it clear that we are bound by it to bring our domestic standards into compliance with the standards of CODEX. We are bound by the standards and regulations of CODEX under the WTO Treaty and by Article VI, Clause 2 of the US Constitution which says that treaty law supersedes domestic law and by a consequence of that treaty, the SPSA.


According to Dr. Laibow, a deadline is looming for the EU: August 1.

If the Alliance for Natural Health wins a binding judgment in June, 2005 which upholds the recent non-binding opinion by the Advocate General of the European Court of Justice (ECJ), supplements may not disappear from shelves in the EU on August 1, 2005. Since the Advocate General’s opinion states that he has no problem with the existence of the standards, EFSD [European Food Supplements Directive] standards using more science will go into effect in Europe. Under this scenario, the EFSD would go back to the drawing board and come up with new standards which it will again promulgate and enforce. But if those standards are rewritten by August 1, 2005 (which they well could be), there will be mass extinction of supplements on that date in Europe. The die off rate would not be quite as high, perhaps, but die off of natural supplements will occur since the EFSD is determined to make them illegal in the EU and has been empowered by EU law to do so. But if the ECJ’s binding decision goes against ANH in June, 75% of the supplements available in Europe will disappear permanently on August 1, 2005.

This possibility is relevant for citizens of the United States. If Europeans who want to buy food supplements begin ordering them from retail sellers in the United States, it is almost guaranteed that there will be a formal complaint to the WTO brought by a European nation against the United States. That is when the rubber will meet the road.


For over four decades, the Codex Alimentarius has seemed to be entirely voluntary for member nations to impose. This will not be the case for much longer.

The recent political set-back of the European Union in France and Holland may have sent a message to the Codex Commission. If the Codex Commission issues comprehensive new standards in July, this could add fuel to the anti-Constitution fire. This outcome was not perceived to be a threat when the Commission scheduled its meeting. But the trend is clear, whatever the timetable may now be.

People’s legal right to buy vitamins and food supplements is seen as a threat by Eurocrats, and the FDA has had to be reigned in repeatedly by Congress to get the bureaucrats to back off. The bureaucrats know that if it were ever to come to a vote, voters in most nations will affirm their right to be left alone when it comes to vitamins. The war has therefore moved from politics to bureaucratic agreements. The war is about to escalate.

June 9, 2005

Gary North [send him mail] is the author of Mises on Money. Visit He is also the author of a free multi-volume series, An Economic Commentary on the Bible.

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