The American Herbal Products Association (APHA) published a document last week to address concerns from its members and consumers that access to supplements containing vitamins, minerals and herbs will be affected by the guidelines.
All 165 Codex member countries will be required to allow the import of vitamin and mineral supplements that meet the new guidelines, it said.
But since US law on dietary supplements (the 1994 Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act, or DSHEA) is less restrictive than the guidelines, logic dictates that imports which meeting the guidelines' requirements will also meet those of DHSEA.
However countries whose laws are more restrictive than the guidelines will have to relax their regulations for incoming trade.
The flip-side of the guidelines, as John Hathcock, VP scientific & international affairs at the Council For Responsible Nutrition (CRN), explained to NutraIngredients-USA.com, is that other Codex countries could reject US products that do not meet the regulatory standards of the guidelines.
Whilst the regulations will not force them to reject such products, Hathcock noted that a country is unlikely to be more lenient on foreign imports than it is on products produced domestically.
He added that whilst the primary purpose of Codex is to "protect exporters against whimsical importers," a country's government could choose to use Codex as a national policy if it so wished. This option is most likely to be exercised by countries which do not have large budgets to develop their own.
The Codex Alimentarius Commission was set up in 1963 by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization and the World Health Organization to develop guidelines that protect consumer health and ensure fair trade practices. It has adopted almost 250 standards covering different aspects of the food industry to date.
The Draft Guidelines for Vitamin and Mineral Food Supplements were first proposed in 1993 and are currently at step 8 of the Codex process, the final stage prior to adoption.
The discussions surrounding the new guidelines coincides with industry concern over the 2002 food supplements directive, due to come into force in August.
Earlier this month Advocate General Geelhoed of the European Court of Justice ruled that the directive, which would limit vitamin and mineral supplements to an approved list and see hundreds of widely-used ingredients withdrawn as of August 2005, infringes basic principles of European law and should be rewritten.
The opinion was given after two parallel cases brought by trade associations (the Health Food Manufacturers Association and the National Association of Health Stores) and a consumer health campaign group, the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH), argued that the directive infringes EU constitutional law and basic principles of free trade.
Although not legally binding, in the majority of cases the Advocate General's opinion reflects that of the senior judge in the final ruling, which is expected in July.
Mark LeDoux, chairman of CRN's international trade and market development committee, said that the ruling "means that the Draft Standard for Vitamin and Mineral Supplements…is substantively vindicated, and any effort to amend this draft standard at the upcoming Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting in July would not only violate Codex's fundamental tenets, it would run counter to what the European Union's own jurists…opined."
In urging CRN members to support the Codex guidelines, Hathcock called them "consistent with sound scientific principles, public policy and now, developing EU law."