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Codex Moves Forward on Several Fronts

As it begins celebrating its 60th Anniversary

By Scott C. Tips

©FAO/Codex - CCNFSDU Chairwoman & Co-Chairwoman

            It had been three-and-a-half years since the Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses (CCNFSDU) had last met in person. Because of the unnecessary panic attacks, economy-destroying lockdowns, and silly “social distancing” imposed by governments upon much of the World’s population during the 2020-2022 COVID-19 pandemic scare, this and many other Codex Committees had only met by remote Zoom video sessions during those years. So, it was a refreshing change to see familiar faces in person among the delegates assembling for the Nutrition Committee meeting in Düsseldorf, Germany the week of March 6-10, 2023.

            The National Health Federation (NHF) delegation at this meeting consisted of Younis-Louis Amadid – a young student studying international relations and political sciences at ILERI, a private university in Lyon, France – and me, as the NHF delegation head. A smaller meeting this first year back, we were joined by only 60 member countries and 28 other INGOs. The Chairwoman was once again Dr. Anja Brönstrup, supported by her new Co-Chairwoman, Ms. Martine Püster. The Codex Alimentarius Commission Chairman Steve Wearne and the Codex Secretary Tom Heilandt were also present, both of whom gave opening remarks to the Committee.

            The two “big” issues at this meeting were expected to be: (1) the final push for adoption of a standard for Follow-up Formula for infants and older children; and (2) the establishment of nutrient reference values (NRVs) for persons aged 6-36 months. Indeed, the Chairwoman had wisely set aside plenty of time for the delegates to discuss both issues. Yet, as it turned out, they were resolved in record time. Although at the end of the meeting the Chairwoman was gracious enough to give the credit to the delegates, it was obvious to me (and many others) that the credit belonged to her.

NRVs for Persons Aged 6-36 Months

            Curiously, the general meeting did not begin on Monday, March 6th. Rather, that day began bright and early with a Physical Working Group (PWG) meeting ably chaired by Irish delegate Dr. Mary Flynn to discuss the general principles for setting the NRVs for Vitamins A, D, C, K, and E, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, Vitamins B6 and B12, folate, pantothenic acid, biotin, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, iodine, copper, selenium, manganese, phosphorus, and potassium for these older infants and young children. And, even then, since this was really only the first tentative step in the process, the PWG was given the narrow task of just addressing the first several nutrients and making suggestions to the regular Committee when it began meeting the following day. (Although a PWG’s recommendations to the full Committee do not have to be followed, they generally are.)

            The PWG attendees debated definitions and orders of priority for the handful of (Codex) Recognized Authoritative Scientific Bodies (RASBs) to dictate the NRVs, with many wanting the World Health Organization (WHO) to trump any and all other RASBs for any NRVs to be set by Codex.

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