International Lifestyle Magazine Issue 51 - Page 115

Currently, it acts as a body of experts who make recommendations to the 185 governments who are members of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. Although Codex recommendations are not, strictly speaking, legally binding – and are described as voluntary by governments and regulatory bodies, such as the USA’s Food & Drug Administration (FDA), when questioned – the reality is somewhat different. For one thing, the bodies with the most influence at Codex are countries involved in the greatest volume of international trade in food – plus ‘key stakeholders’ represented by agri-business and biotech trade associations. Those with little clout include local, communitybased growers, food producers and suppliers. So essentially, Codex dictates European, American and Canadian law relating to the international trade of food, bypassing the democratic process; there are no elected representatives of the people involved in these decisions, since bureaucrats do all the work. Since 2002, many new EU regulations have been coming into effect, with the stated intention to protect the consumer. Unfortunately, their end result is to support the continued growth of the big industries, while largely neglecting to pay attention to what may serve consumers or small businesses. The entire holistic health industry has been affected by these laws: homeopaths, reflexologists, herbalists, naturopaths, health food manufacturers...in fact, anyone whose profession involves people taking part in their own responsibility for their health, and healing by working with natural methods, has found that in recent years it has become harder to share products and inform customers and clients of the benefits of both products and procedures. How Does It Affect Us? The Food Supplements Directive became law in 2002. Under the FSD, the European Commission is obliged to create EU-harmonised maximum (and minimum) permitted levels (MPLs) of vitamins and minerals allowed in food supplements. Although the Commission has not released its proposed MPLs as yet, early signs are that the methods it is using to assess the potential risk of consumption of vitamins and minerals in food supplements will make supplement doses so low as to become meaningless. The MPL for beta-carotene, for example, may be equivalent to eating a carrot, and the MPL for selenium may be the equivalent to eating a couple of Brazil nuts. Current high dosage vitamin D supplements start at 1000 IU/day, and some practitioners recommend as much as 6000 IU/day for those with vitamin D deficiency; the new MPL may be just 20 IU. You might remember the outcry around the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive which came into full force across the EU in April 2011. Despite all the protests, the THMPD as enacted places heavy restrictions on the sale of herbal medicines, which must now be approved and given a ‘Traditional Herbal Registration’ number by the MHRA before they can be sold in shops. There are currently only 114 herbs approved as the basis for THR herbal medicines in the UK, and 134 across the entire EU. Although this number includes some of the most popular Western herbs, such as Echinacea and peppermint, it excludes the vast majority of Chinese, Ayurvedic and South American herbs. To put this in context, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) alone uses over 3,000 herbs. One of the reasons for the low uptake of registrations is that it costs over £100,000 to get a product registered, which is prohibitive to small companies; the average cost for certifying and registering a TCM consisting of 5 herbs is about £444,800. In contrast, the pharmaceutical industry is consistently one of the most profitable industries in the world – indeed, until 2003, it was THE most profitable industry. The US pharmaceutical industry spent $855 million, more than any other industry, on lobbying activities from 1998 to 2006. Next, we have the Nutrition & Health Claims Regulation, which was passed in the EU with little fanfare in Dec 2012. In effect, the NHCR ensures that manufacturers cannot make unauthorised claims about the nutritional benefits or health benefits of foods. The only permissible health claims are those that have been approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and published on the EU Register of health claims. Less than 250 health claims are currently approved, for just over 70 nutrients, so the list of authorised claims is limited to say the least. Non-specific claims like ‘oily fish is good for you’, ‘antioxidant’, ‘probiotic’ and ‘superfood’ are banned. Go into a health food store and look at the products on the shelves and notice how nondescript the labels are. If a product does carry any information beyond that contained on the highly restricted approved health claims list, it’s because the authorities haven’t caught up with the manufacturers yet – the law is less than a year old, and it takes a very long time to enforce it with each individual company. www.internationallifestylemagazine.com