Some fear vitamin guidelines will interfere with purchases

By Marlena Hartz: Freedom Newspapers

Joy Armstrong is afraid she may not be able to purchase certain quantities of vitamin and mineral supplements due to tightening international guidelines.

The Clovis resident regularly orders vitamins from a research center and has been doing so for more than 40 years. Ever since she was diagnosed wheat intolerant, her cabinets have been filled with bottles of iron, calcium and magnesium supplements, and she doesn’t want that to change.

Some dietary supplement companies and customers were put in a tailspin when the international food and drug commission, Codex Alimentarius, adopted guidelines for vitamin and mineral food supplements in July.

The 43-year-old commission, with ties to the United Nations and the World Trade Organization, boasts of 172 member countries, including the United States. The Codex has adopted more than 200 worldwide standards for food, which can be used to resolve international trade disputes.

“A balanced diet can provide all the nutrients the body needs,” a Codex introduction on dietary supplements states. The bulk of its guidelines, however, are more benign: Labels should print the amount of vitamins and minerals contained in bottles; supplement containers should be made with hygienic and safe materials; and either natural or synthetic sources can be used to make supplements, as long as they are not toxic, according to www.codexalimentarius.net.

There is one Codex paragraph, however, stirring up public anxiety. It recommends the amount of vitamins or minerals in a daily supplement dose be limited, though it does not yet address exact recommendations.

Local Nutri-Mart employee Beck Dlouhy said the store has received a “couple of calls” from customers concerned over implications of international supplement guidelines, but overall, she said it hasn’t caused a big stir among her Nutri-Mart customers.

There are a growing number of Clovis residents, however, worried about Codex implications.

“It’s kind of scary. What if we can no longer go to Wal-Mart to buy vitamins? I don’t want anybody telling me what I can and cannot do. Most normal people do not,” said dietary supplement user Del Curry.

According to the American Herbal Products Association, there is no real threat.

“(Codex) can only make a country adhere to more liberal, not more restrictive, standards,” said Steven Dentali, vice pesident of the American Herbal Products Association.

If a country has laws that are more restrictive than Codex laws, that country may be forced to relax its restrictions to allow a product that complies with Codex standards to be traded inside its borders, Dentali and the American Herbal Products Association Web site said.

Furthermore, only U.S. Congress can amend U.S. laws. The hype surrounding Codex was generated through Internet misinformation, Dentali said.

Still, some are scared.

“A lot of people don’t realize Codex has connections with the World Trade Organization. I like the fact that we are an independent country and I don’t want that to change,” Armstrong said.

According to local activist and civil rights advocate Bruce Journagan, big pharmaceutical and medical companies support Codex.