Bush Administration Fails to Support Update of Code of Ethics for International Trade in Foods


WHO Recommended Nutrition, Food-Safety Updates

April 15, 2005

Consumer groups are chiding the Bush Administration for failing to support efforts by the World Health Organization (WHO) to update a 20-year-old Code of Ethics for International Trade in Foods. According to the International Association of Consumer Food Organizations (IACFO), that Code needs to be updated to include guidance on marketing junk food to kids and related nutrition issues.

This week in Paris revisions to the Code were being considered by a committee of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex) sponsored by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. The WHO called on the committee to revise the Code to address marketing practices that affect nutrition and diet-related disease. The U.S. failed, though, to support the WHO recommendation.

"This 20-year-old Code of ethics needs to reflect current concerns about nutrition and diet-related disease, particularly the growing epidemic of childhood obesity worldwide," said Bruce Silverglade, director of legal affairs for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, who attended the meeting on behalf of IACFO. "The Bush Administration talks a lot about the obesity crisis, but fails to speak up when it counts," he said.

The U.S.-based Food Products Association opposed revising the Code. The Code sets baseline standards that countries can apply to the marketing of food products. While not mandatory, most countries follow regulatory policies that are consistent with the Code.

While European countries attending the Codex meeting generally supported revising the Code, some Latin American countries opposed such efforts, expressing fears that revisions could create new trade barriers. The U.S. government remained silent on the point. The Codex Secretariat stated it would be "awkward" to proceed in the absence of greater enthusiasm, and despite support from the chair of the Codex committee, the matter was dropped.

 

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