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Codex Alimentarius Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses met in Berlin

14/2000, 26.07.2000

Report of the 22nd Session available on the BgVV Homepage

Around 140 government representatives, observers and experts from 51 Member States and 18 international organisations attended the 22nd Session of the Codex Alimentarius Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses which was held at the Federal Institute for Health Protection of Consumers and Veterinary Medicine in Berlin from 19 to 23 June 2000. The Federal Republic of Germany is the host country for this Codex Committee which was set up in 1966 and which has met in Berlin since 1998. The Committee focuses on foods for special dietary uses and aspects of nutrition of relevance for the work of other committees of the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

The agenda for the 22nd Session included guidelines for advertising for foods, the standard for gluten-free foods, the draft guideline for vitamin and mineral supplements (food supplements), the standards for processed cereal-based foods for infants and small children and infant formula. The provisions concerning vitamins and mineral substances in a balanced diet and the classification of sport and energy drinks were also discussed. The English report of the meeting is available on the BgVV homepage

The main subject at the meeting was the healthy nutrition of infants and small children. In the opinion of the World Health Organisation and BgVV breastfeeding is the best start in life and guarantees a healthy development. But infants who are not breastfed also have a right to high quality formula. The standard for infant formula, which was introduced in 1981, is currently being revised by the Codex Committee in order to guarantee the current state of scientific knowledge for breast milk substitutes. The standard for complementary food for older infants and small children is also being revised in order to guarantee demand-based nutrition around the world. Based on the foods produced in the country and adapted to the local situation, complementary food should meet the minimum requirements in terms of energy content and nutrient composition. Work on these standards will keep the Committee busy since the opinions in the various countries, of course, differ about binding regulations.

Food supplements from vitamins and/or mineral substances which are marketed separately in capsule, tablet, powder or liquid form as foods also come under the scope of the Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses. On the basis of a discussion paper submitted by Brazil, the European Union, Mexico and the USA there was an extensive debate in the Codex Committee about the need for the elaboration of guidelines. Some delegations, for instance from Canada, were against global guidelines since vitamin and mineral supplements are classified in these countries as medicinal products. The majority of the delegations were in favour of the preparation of guidelines but with the indication that the products are widely available on the market and that the consumer must be protected against too high doses of such supplements and deceptions. There were differing views in respect of the fixing of upper limits. Some delegations were in favour of basing them on recommended daily intakes, other delegations wanted upper limits to be based on risk analysis. Work on the guidelines is continuing.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission was set up in 1962 as a joint body of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Its goal is to protect the health of consumers by drawing up international food standards and by guaranteeing honest practices in the international food trade. Codex Alimentarius elaborates and lays down definitions and requirements for foods; it is involved in the harmonisation and promotion of international trade. Codex standards are rated highly in dispute settlement proceedings within the framework of the new world trade order. Standards are elaborated on the basis of a fixed, eight-phase procedure. The elaboration of a global Codex standard must be approved by the Commission. The draft revisions are submitted to all members of the Commission and interested national organisations on each level for examination and amendment. Only after conclusion of the eight stages is the Codex standard published.


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