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Food - Codex Alimentarius

Author: Dave Sorensen
Added: December 2nd, 2010
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This is a preliminary article and is meant to be a general overview of the conspiracy theories surrounding the Codex Alimentarius. If you think should be added, please see the linked discussion page above.

Food laws have been around since the 1800's. With the increased use of additives and pesticides in the 20th century, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) were formed to establish safety standards for good human health. In 1950 , the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee reported that:

"Food regulations in different countries are often conflicting and contradictory. Legislation governing preservation, nomenclature and acceptable food standards often varies widely from country to country. New legislation not based on scientific knowledge is often introduced, and little account may be taken of nutritional principles in formulating regulations."

These concerns and others led to the creation of the Codex Alimentarius guidelines.

Codex Alimentarius is a set of guidelines and codes of practice relating to food production and safety that was founded in 1963 by the FAO of the United Nations and WHO[1]. Its overall goal is to enforce the labeling of nutritional facts, regulation of food additives and to assess the risks of genetically modified foods. With the FDA and other regulatory bodies now cracking down on "natural supplements" and the regulation of herbs and vitamins, some of the sellers of these goods are now claiming there is a big conspiracy going on backstage.

Similar to the anti-vaccination crowd who has demonized "Big Pharma" for giving their children autism, the anti-codex crowd makes even more incredible claims that support their worldview. It is claimed that new guidelines shall be imposed in the near future, including that food to be irradiated, nutrients and vitamins to be removed from the market and "frankenfood" on the kitchen table. These are just some of the claims that are circulating the web. But is there any convincing evidence that the Codex Alimentarius guidelines are part of a sinister plot to make us all unhealthy?

A headline from a Natural News article from 2008 reads[2]:

Codex Alimentarius: Population Control Under the Guise of Consumer Protection

The article is chock full of logical fallacies, bare assertions and misinformation. Not to mention the website promotes of kinds of woo woo such as "ancient superfood of the Inca", colloidal silver and anti-vax hysteria. A visit to the site's homepage should ring alarm bells. About half way into the article, the author makes the following series of bold claims.

All nutrients (vitamins and minerals) are to be considered toxins/poisons and are to be removed from all food because Codex prohibits the use of nutrients to "prevent, treat or cure any condition or disease

Really?! Where did the author get their information from? Most of these claims come from a paper written by Rima E Laibow[3a], who is another biased source to say the least. She is an anti-vaxxer and has an online store that sells organic food and alternative supplements (including homeopathic remedies). She also claims to be a "healer". From her website:

Like other healers who trust the innate ability to heal, she believes in using nutrients and other natural options to find, define and treat the problems which underlie degenerative, chronic diseases.

A look at her paper shows no primary source for the "nutrients are toxins" claim. But with a little bit of digging around at Laibow's website,, we find a few claims that are directly related.

While Risk Assessment is a legitimate science (it is a branch of toxicology), it is the wrong science for assessing nutrients! In fact, in this context, it is actually junk science. Biochemistry, the science of life processes, is the correct science for assessing nutrients. Codex Alimentarius treats nutrients as toxins, which is literally insane.

Nutrients are not toxins - they are essential for life.

Here they are really making a straw man argument. No one is saying nutrients are toxins. The toxicity results from too much of the nutrient, not the nutrient itself. Drinking too much water in a short period of time can lead to water toxicity. But is toxicology really the wrong kind of science for assessing nutrients? 'Toxicology is the study of the adverse effects of chemical, physical or biological agents on people, animals, and the environment.' [3b]

Nutrients are composed of chemicals and to understand the adverse effects of chemicals on animals you would do a toxicological study to see what amounts are safe to consume. Biochemistry is the study of chemical processes in living animals. (Lipids, proteins, nucleic acids etc.) To explain, Vitamin D is made up of a molecular compound of ergocalciferol with lumisterol. Of course the author is talking about artificial chemicals ("the bad ones"), but there are health risks from both kinds. (It's the dose that makes the poison)

The author's reasoning is fallacious. It is what's called the naturalistic fallacy, which assumes that everything natural is good because they are from mother earth. We all know there are plenty of examples of poisonous plants and venomous critters. It simply does not follow that something natural is good for you. There is also the notion that taking mega doses of vitamins will make your immune system even stronger.

This is pure pseudoscience and can lead to diarrhea or vomiting among other harmful side effects. There isn't any good evidence that demonstrates consuming more than the recommended dosage of a vitamin is beneficial to your health. Their belief is that the FDA will set the recommended dose at a fraction of what is needed for good health. Keep this in mind whenever you hear an anti-codexer bring up concerns with the recommended dose for vitamins. One of the other claims talks about the Codex commission's alleged motive:

Codex Alimentarius is a shrewd vehicle for protecting the pharmaceutical industry from the loss of income it stands to suffer due to the inevitable growth of natural healthcare.

The first error in this claim is that "Big Pharma" or "the pharmaceutical industry" isn't monolithic. This is common in conspiracy theories where they think of the government is this all powerful, super competent monolithic entity. They are far from competent and have failed to execute some of the simplest conspiracies. As Dr. Steven Novella puts it[3c]:

The medical establishment is not a single entity. The health-care industry includes physicians, nurses, other health professionals, insurance companies, private consumer organizations, universities, government agencies (such as the FDA), hospitals, HMOs, other managed-care organizations, professional organizations (such as the AMA), pharmaceutical companies, and other private corporations. These groups may have competing interests; and, within each group, individual members may also have competing interests, and many have no financial stake in patient care. Some private physicians get paid for each patient they see, but others do not. Most who work for HMOs or other managed-care organizations are either salaried or capitated (receiving a fixed monthly sum per patient not per service). Those who pursue an academic career may be salaried and/or obtain money from research grants. For physicians on fixed incomes, more patients means more work, but not more money. Some physicians dedicate their career to public health and do not see patients at all. And if an expensive cancer treatment could be replaced by something much less costly, insurance companies would embrace it.

The second problem is that if natural products are far superior to scientific based medicine, why is it that not one of these alternative health researchers has come out with a scientific study to demonstrate this? This raises many other questions. Why have we seen a drastic increase in life expectancy and overall better health in the past 100 years? Humans have used all natural food and medicine for thousands of years and in the past the average life expectancy was around 35.

So what would be the reasoning behind removing all nutrients from food and how would they even accomplish this? The conspiracy theorist would reply 'they want to lower the population.' Which brings us to another theory each with it's own arguments and claims. A lot of the depopulation theories stem from paranoia, the common misconception that the earth is overpopulating, and mined quotes from wealthy influential political figures. Right now if we were to take the entire earth's population, we could fit them all comfortably in Alaska. In most developed nations, the population has come to a plateau point. Overpopulation in third world countries is a problem because of their lack of education and health care.

If anything the evil bankers would want to depopulate third world countries. The last part of this claim regarding the prohibition of disease curing nutrients and remedies is most probably talking about the alternative supplements and herbs that have been deemed unsafe or ineffective by the FDA such as colloidal silver and ephedra[4]. Then sliding down the slippery slope fallacy and jump to the conclusion that any kind of food that they themselves believe prevents or treats diseases (all organic/natural food) will be prohibited as well. In the end it all comes down to what the evidence says. If there isn't any good evidence that a supplement's benefits outweigh its risks, why should it be sold? I think it is equally important to assess how well an herb or supplement works. If it lacks any real medicinal value and does the trick via the placebo effect, I don't think they should be allowed to sell it. This would be the same as selling sugar pills as medicine.

All food (including organic) is to be irradiated, removing all toxic nutrients from food (unless eaten locally and raw).

Again no primary sources for this claim whatsoever, and misrepresent what irradiation actually is. Irradiation would kill off harmful bacteria such as ecoli without taking away much nutritional value from the food. There have been, as yet, no studies that show cancer is a risk from irradiating food. The word irradiation may sound frightening but there's really no evidence that it's harmful and there has been plenty of studies that looked for health risks over the past 20 years[5][6].

Nutrients allowed will be limited to a Positive List developed by Codex which will include such beneficial nutrients like Fluoride (3.8 mg daily) developed from environmental waste. All other nutrients will be prohibited nationally and internationally to all Codex-compliant countries.

From this excerpt I can guess that this author is anti-fluoridation as well. We've covered the topic here extensively. The Positive List developed by Codex goes over the additives and hormones that have been thoroughly tested and shown to have no risks. Why is this a bad idea? This only starts to make sense when you apply some fallacious reasoning. 'Anything that is not on this positive list must be deemed illegal.' Or this list could be referring to additives that Codex has looked over and approved.

All nutrients (e.g., CoQ10, Vitamins A, B, C, D, Zinc and Magnesium) that have any positive health impact on the body will be deemed illegal under Codex and are to be reduced to amounts negligible to humans' health

Here's another claim that is completely made up. How could they make Vitamin D illegal when you can get it from standing outside in the sun? If there were negligible amounts of these nutrients in foods, then the food would be almost all water. Again how could anyone seriously believe that this is what they have in mind? What would all of the conspirators and politicians eat if everything was reduced to bags of sterilized mush?

All dairy cows are to be treated with Monsanto's recombinant bovine growth hormone.

The official codex website offers an faq page. Their answer[8]:

There are no prescriptions in Codex standards and guidelines on treating or not treating cattle with hormones. Codex has established maximum residue values for a number of veterinary drugs in order to make sure that their residues do not raise health concern where they are used.

Another big problem with this claim is that the European Union has banned the usage of hormones in animals.

All advice on nutrition (including written online or journal articles or oral advice to a friend, family member or anyone) will be illegal. This includes reports on vitamins and minerals and all nutritionist's consultations.

All journal articles to be illegal and oral advice on nutrition to a friend or family not allowed? How would the government even enforce this regulation? Will police arrest you on the street if you remind your kids to eat their fruit for lunch? This is a fantastically paranoid claim that fails the plausibility test, and isn't backed up by anything but very biased hearsay.

And the claims do not end there. A 2009 article from makes this bold claim[7]:

[A]ccording to the projections based on figures from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a minimum of 3 billion people will die from the Codex mandated vitamin and mineral guideline alone.

So apparently the WHO and FAO have done calculations on how many people will die from this new set of food standards and a handful of alternative med gurus have been able to find them, but they won't share their source with the rest of the world. This whole notion of a super secret, all powerful government is incompatible with such sloppy hiding skills. The claim is also extremely implausible. How would 3 billion people die from a series of updated food and vitamin regulations? It's not like the countries that are affected by Codex regulations have food shortages. The Codex vitamin and mineral guideline says nothing remotely close to what natural news claims it to say. From Codex vitamin and mineral guidelines[9]:

Most people who have access to a balanced diet can usually obtain all the nutrients they require from their normal diet. Because foods contain many substances that promote health, people should therefore 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.

According the FDA[10]:

The Guidelines do not specify upper limits for vitamins and minerals in supplements. Instead, they provide criteria for establishing maximum amounts of vitamins and minerals per daily portion of supplement consumed, as recommended by the manufacturer. The criteria specify that maximum amounts should be established by scientific risk assessment based on generally accepted scientific data and taking into consideration, as appropriate, the varying degrees of sensitivity of different consumer groups.

The Guidelines also address the packaging and labeling of vitamin and mineral supplements.

If you already have a well balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle, you most likely won't need anything else. This is contrary to what some alternative health gurus believe. They claim that taking their supplements and vitamins at high doses will prevent virtually all diseases and some even claim their products cure cancer. Until there are quality studies done to demonstrate these claims, they will remain unconvincing to the majority of food scientists. At the moment, the majority of their evidence consists of customer reviews and inconclusive small scale studies.

This naturalnews article also tells us how Codex was founded by an ex-nazi:

While serving his prison term, Schmitz looked for an alternative to brute force for controlling people and realized that people could be controlled through their food supply. When he got out of prison, he went to his friends at the United Nations (UN) and laid out a plan to take over the control of food worldwide.

The author is simply poisoning the well and fails to source where they got the information about Schmitz being involved with the Codex Alimentarius commission. Hermann Schmitz was imprisoned for four years for his connections and knowledge of the Auswitz concentration camp, but there doesn't seem to be any information about him lending a hand in creating the Codex Commission[12]. The codex official FAQ page states that this claim is nonsense. I'll let the reader decide whether they are telling the truth.

For a while, natural news and other alternative medicine websites claimed that the new codex guidelines were to be put into effect in the United States on December 31st 2009. It turns out the United States never adopted the Codex Alimentarius regulations and the December date referred to the European Union's Food Supplements Directive coming into full effect[13].

According to the National Health Federation's website:

Those people who misinformed you all these months are the same ones who almost five years ago also claimed that Codex would eliminate vitamins and minerals from American health-food store shelves by July 31, 2005. Well, that date also came and went without that happening. Now they have a larger audience and one that is ignorant of these earlier false claims. How many more false cries will have to come and go before people wake up to the fact that they should stop listening to anyone who claimed that December 31st was a Codex danger date? How much more time must pass before that audience realizes that they have been suckers, steered in a wrong direction and with a false message?

In conclusion, the Codex scare is being promoted by Alternative medicine practitioners and organic food promoters for financial and emotional reasons. Their products are beginning to be regulated and studied in a scientific manner, opposed to their preferred choice of anecdotes from customers and magical thinking. In defense they resort to conspiracy mongering, misinformation and flat out lies. The central claims about Codex lack any basis in reality. When asked repeatedly via email by a blogger known as the Mad Scientist, the proponents of this conspiracy theory fail to show their sources[14]. And last of all, these "dreaded" Codex regulations were never even adopted by the United States.