Originally designed by military and business leaders from the pharmaceutical industry in Germany shortly after World War II, historically, Codex was evolved from a collection of standards and product descriptions for a wide variety of foods developed in the Austro-Hungarian Empire between 1897 and 1911. Austria subsequently pursued the creation of a regional food code, the “Codex Alimentarius Europaeus” between 1954 and 1958.
In 1961 the Council of Codex Alimentarius Europaeus adopted a resolution proposing that its work on food standards be taken over by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Today‟s “Codex Alimentarius” was formed by the FAO of the United Nations World
Health Assembly in 1963.
In the mid-1990s Codex Alimentarius signed agreements with the World Trade
Organization (WTO), enabling Codex to establish trade standards that the WTO
would use to resolve international trade disputes.
To explain, perhaps some Trade Agreement background is in order:
- Since 1947 the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) oversaw the multilateral trading system and the otherwise sovereign governments that signed GATT were known as “GATT Contracting Parties.”
- On January 1, 1995 the World Trade Organization (WTO) replaced the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).
- Upon signing the new WTO agreements, including the updated GATT agreements the “GATT Contracting Parties” now became officially known as “WTO Members” which was actually based on some of the principles that actually underline the current European Union.
As of July 23, 2008, the WTO has a total membership of 153 countries including the United States who signed on as a member in 1995.
As already pointed out, in the mid-1990s, Codex Alimentarius signed agreements with the WTO, which enabled Codex to establish trade standards that the WTO would use to resolve international trade disputes.
In summary then we have (1) the EU Food Supplements Directive, now law throughout Europe and in various stages of clarification, finalization and implementation; (2) Codex Alimentarius adopting these laws as “guidelines and standards” that each nation should aspire to, but are actually supported by legal obligations contained within a number of international trade agreements signed by the governments of numerous countries outside of Europe, including the U.S.
In the Next Issue: Codex Alimentarius - Part Five: Are all WTO member countries obligated to follow Codex “Standards and Guidelines”?