The Codex Alimentarius, Latin for “Book of Food”, is a set of international standards for food labeling and safety. Developed through fifty years of United Nations meetings and studies, it serves as a touchstone to normalize regulations in food hygiene, nutrition, safety guidelines, labeling, pesticide usage, risk assessment, additives and international trade. It’s completely voluntary, with no requirements made of its signatories, no enforcement arm and no legal ramifications for non-compliance. It simply serves as a way to ensure the safety of food products, fair trade between nations and the availability of quality nutrition for everyone.
If any of this sounds familiar, it should. It’s very similar to another voluntary United Nations initiative, Agenda 21. And just like that set of guidelines for the developing world has galvanized a strong opposition movement, a conspiracy theory has grown around the Codex. It’s a complicated plan involving GMOs, Big Pharma, Nazi war criminals, the banning of vitamins and holistic health supplements and corporations taking control of the world’s food supply – with the ultimate goal being the depopulation of the planet through toxic food and malnutrition. But where did the conspiracy come from? How does one go about debunking it? And what is the Codex in the first place?
Though it came out of the UN in the 50’s, the Codex Alimentarius has its origins in Austro-Hungarian food standards of the late 1800’s, called the Codex Alimentarius Austriacus. This earlier Codex was never actually a law, but served as a standard for safety, labeling and trade. After World War II devastated much of Europe, easy access to nutritious and inexpensive food became essential for the feeding of refugees and displaced persons. This lead to the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 1945, and the World Health Organization three years later.
The first joint meeting of the two organizations took place in 1950, and there the idea of standardizing food labels and regulations was proposed. Austrian politician Hans Frenzel led the charge for a European Codex Alimentarius based on the earlier Austrian model, and after a winding series of meetings, commissions and proposals, the Codex Alimentarius Commission held its first formal session in Rome in October, 1963. 30 nations sent representatives, and since then, 185 member nations have signed on to the Codex, the last being Turkmenistan in 2012.
At its core, the Codex is not one document, but a series of committees, studies, papers and policies. Just the most recent Procedure Manual of the Codex Commission runs over 200 pages. It’s an exhaustive amount of material, crammed with minute details ranging from the amount of safe pesticide residue in yak meat to a committee tasked with the standardization of fruit juices (which was abolished in 1999.) It’s far too information much for any one person to sort through.
As with Agenda 21, the very idea of UN standards for food safety seems like a natural fit for a conspiracy theory. Despite the Codex being 50 years old and publicly available, a simple search turns up a horde of scare articles on about what its “real” purpose is. They have titles like:
Population Control Under the Guise of Consumer Protection
Big Brother’s Plan to Control Health Supplements
Codex Alimentarius Commission – A Threat to Humankind
An Introduction to Soft Kill Eugenics
Codex Alimentarius, Control over the Food Supply and World Government
Billions of People Expected to Die Under Current Codex Alimentarius Guidelines
Among the loftier claims made by these pieces are that the Codex requires all food to be irradiated and all cows to be treated with Monsanto bovine growth hormone, that it classifies nutrient supplements as poisons, criminalizes holistic health and nutritional advice, that it was the work of rehabilitated Nazis, that it mandates all food be genetically manipulated by major corporations and that its ultimate goal is for three billion people to die of…something or other.
Obviously, none of this is true, and it exists nowhere in any Codex documents. Most of it is just made up. Just to pick one example, the Codex has no mandate for food irradiation, and specifically advises that “The irradiation of food is justified only when it fulfills a technological requirement and/or is beneficial for the protection of consumer health. It should not be used as a substitute for good hygienic and good manufacturing practices or good agricultural practices.”
Just like Agenda 21 and Glenn Beck, much of the paranoia about the Codex appears to have originated with a small group. In this case, we can narrow it down to two physicians. One is psychiatrist Rima Laibow, founder of the Natural Solutions Foundation, an anti-vaccine proponent and foe of “food Nazification” who claims to have never written a prescription. The other is Matthias Rath, a cardiologist who touts nutritional supplements as a curative for everything from cancer to AIDS, and has a habit of suing those who disagree with him.
Virtually everything you can find opposing the Codex makes a reference to either Rath or Laibow, though in an interesting twist, they seem to be at war with each other, with Rath accusing Laibow of being a “disinfo agent.” Laibow is a primary source for the most inflammatory Codex claims and Rath “revealed” the alleged connection between the Codex and the Nazis.
Rath’s specific allegation is that Nazi industrialists Fritz ter Meer and Hermann Schmitz, both IG Farben executives sentenced to prison for their use of slave labor, played major roles in the creation of the Codex. Their goal, Rath hypothesizes, was to use German industry to control the world’s food supply. However, there’s no evidence that either Schmitz, ter Meer or IG Farben itself had any involvement in the writing or refining the Codex. In fact, Schmitz died three years before the first Codex Commission meeting and IG Farben was liquidated by the Allies in 1952.
Those asserting that the Codex is some kind of post-war Nazi plot can only make vague allegations that because Farben’s successor companies (including Bayer and BASF) employed Nazi war criminals, and Germany played a major role in the creation of the Codex, there must be a link between the two. But allegations and coincidences aren’t evidence. A final irony is that Hans Frenzel, who played such a major role in reviving the Codex, was an active member of the Austrian anti-Nazi resistance.
Another focus of the Codex conspiracy is the regulation of vitamins and supplements. And there is a great deal of confusion regarding various laws in different countries. In 2005, the Codex passed its “Guidelines for Vitamin and Mineral Food Supplements.” These statues (which run a very un-Codex-like two pages) simply suggest that the best way for a person to obtain their needed supply of vitamins and minerals is through a well-balanced diet, that supplements should contain certain minimum amounts of vitamins and minerals, and they should be correctly labeled, regardless of content. All of this is completely true.
None of what the Codex Commission suggests has anything to do with banning garlic, amino acids or home-grown food, which is what many conspiracy theorists claim it will do. Yes, the US government has proposed numerous bills to regulate supplements and food safety. But they all died in committee and never had anything to do with “banning” anything, only regulating an out-of-control market ripe for fraud and abuse. In 2002, the European Union proposed a ban on vitamin mega-dosing and all dietary supplements that hadn’t been scientifically tested, but the law was overturned in court. This was an independent action by the EU, and wasn’t linked to the Codex.
Contrary to hysterical claims, no Executive Orders have been signed placing the US food supply under Codex control, and numerous “deadlines” regarding when supplements, nutrients, vitamins and education in natural medicine would become illegal have all come and gone. Meanwhile, I can go to any drug or grocery store and buy a mind-boggling array of pills, powders, extracts and solutions, most of which are totally untested and probably will do nothing for me.
While the mass depopulation put forth by Codex opponents isn’t real, the hunger and malnutrition that the Codex attempts to combat are. Perhaps if those railing against the Codex put more of their effort into helping the poor and hungry, and less into making them the victims of imaginary conspiracies, we wouldn’t need a Codex Alimentarius in the first place.