What is Codex Alimentarius?

“If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.”
– Thomas Jefferson


Codex Alimentarius is an organization which regulation setting is industry dominated and which standards are in fact mandatory for all Member States of the WTO.


By Manon Godot, 14th of December 2010

The Codex Alimentarius is a list of Guidelines, standards and regulations voted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission in order to regulate the use of every food consumed worldwide.

Codex Alimentarius was created in 1961 by a group of industrial companies; these companies established a list of all the food products and components that should be consumed worldwide; the idea being that whoever has the power to control food controls everybody, food being indeed after water, the most essential product for human subsistence. So Codex has never been a public interest organization. It was originally a grouping of private companies that were willing to control one of the most basic of human necessity: food. According to Dr. Rima E. Laibow, Medical Director of the Natural Solutions Foundation, Codex Alimentarius is a trade commission. It is neither a public health nor a consumer commission. Codex is an organization which regulation setting is industry dominated[1] and driven by economic interest only.Codex serves what she calls the five bigs: “Big Pharma, Big Chema, Big Biotechna, Big Agribiz and Big Medica.”

As a matter of interest, one of the main architects of Codex Alimentarius was Fritz Ter Meer, ex-president of the German company I.G. Farben, an industrial company that during WWII used to produce pharmaceuticals, gas (for the death chambers), steel (for the camps’ railroads lines and death camps), munitions and chemicals. Fritz Ter Meer, author of Auschwitz’s slogan “Arbeit macht frei”, was sentenced to seven years of jail by Nuremberg Tribunal for crime against humanity, and his company was dissolved into three companies: BASF, Bayer and HOECHST (now know as Aventis). After being released from jail, he became one of the creators of the European Codex Alimentarius in 1961. The terminology and concept of “Codex Alimentarius” were borrowed to the Austra-Hungarian Empire, which established in 1893 a set of norms by which the courts could rule on cases involving food.

But as we said, Codex was a private organization. Its standards should consequently not be mandatory for the states. Here is the shortcoming: the Codex Alimentarius Commission is currently administered by the WHO (World Health Organization) and the FAO (Food & Agricultural Organisation). The Eleventh Session of the FAO’s Conference in 1961 and the Sixteenth Session of the WHA in 1963, voted resolutions that established the Codex Alimentarius Commission. These public institutions, supposed to protect health and food worldwide, both fund and run Codex Alimentarius at the request of the United-Nations. That does not make Codex mandatory for the UN member States, from a legal point of view. It is however disturbing to know that Codex is run and supported by the United Nations, because of the unethical content of its standards and regulations (See article on Codex Standards).

In 1994, the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) also signed agreements with the WTO (World Trade Organization), by which Codex’s standards would be in fact mandatory for all 153 WTO Members States in the dispute resolution process. Meaning that when a Member Government believes that another is violating an agreement that it has made in the WTO regarding food trade, the WTO dispute settlement body will solve the issue taking into account the standards established by Codex Alimentarius. That does not mean that countries have the legal obligation to implement the Codex Alimentarius set of rules; but if two countries get into the WTO dispute resolution process and only one of them is Codex compliant (meaning that the codex standards are implemented in its national regulation), it will automatically win, regardless of the matter of the case. Countries which are not Codex compliant and are members of the WTO can be held to “be providing a hidden barrier to trade in any food-related trade dispute and be subject to severe WTO trade sanctions”. According to Dr. Rima E. Laibow “Codex compliance is used as a weapon, in a much larger economic battle, and every country in the world is racing to become codex compliant.”

According to the WHO and the FAO, “the Codex Alimentarius, or the Food Code, has become the global reference point for consumers, food producers and processors, national food control agencies and the international food trade”.

United Nations Resolution 39/248 advise that “When formulating national policies and plans with regard to food, Governments should take into account the need of all consumers for food security and should support and, as far as possible, adopt standards from the … Codex Alimentarius or, in their absence, other generally accepted international food standards”.[2]


According to the European Commission, more than 180 countries are currently members of the CAC and more than 200 international NGOs and intergovernmental organizations have the observer status. The 27 Member States of the European Union are all members of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), and the EU also became a full member of the Codex Alimentarius Commission in 2003, sharing the competence with its Member States. In short, most of the countries of Europe (49 countries and the EU), Asia (23 countries), Africa (48 countries), Latin America and Caribbean (33 countries), Near East (17 countries), North America (2 countries) and Southwest Pacific (11 countries) are member of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, and are consequently aiming to become Codex compliant.[3]

That does not mean that all these countries have the legal obligation to implement the Codex rules in their national regulation. As we said, Codex regulations are only standards; they are not international conventions, nor any kind of international commitment for the government members. So in the norms hierarchy, Codex standards do not prevail over national law. The CAC is a grouping of governmental experts that aims to provide technical standards on food. These standards are not supposed to be mandatory; consequently it is legally optional for Governments to implement these standards in their national food legislation. In fact however if the states don’t implement the codex rules in their national legislation, they will expose themselves to international trade sanctions, as Codex is becoming the international reference on food products for the WTO and other UN entities (FAO and WHO). So little by little, governments end up bringing their legislation into line with the Codex Alimentarius set of rules as a consequence of the United-Nations and industry corporations’ pressure.







[1] Codex Alimentarius, Rima E. Laibow, M.D. – National association of Nutrition Professionals NANP 2005 Conference

[2]FAO Website – http://www.fao.org/docrep/008/y7867e/y7867e02.htm

[3] Codex Alimentarius Website – http://www.codexalimentarius.net/web/members.jsp?lang=FR
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