Rolf Grossklaus, the Dr. Strangelove of Nutrition

The weather here in Bonn, Germany has been cold, wet and damp. But the weather inside the Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses (CCNFSDU) turned icy on a couple of fascinating occasions and was so windy on a couple of others that it is hard to understand why the papers did not blow off our desks.

Dr. Grossklaus took his seat rather grandly and presided quietly while the official meet-ers and greet-ers welcomed us to opening session of the 27th session of the CCNFSDU on behalf of this and that group.

The first greeter, from the German government, pointed us toward several interesting items which did not seem to fit completely with the way Dr. Grossklaus saw things. After noting that the next CCNFSDU meeting (2006) next year would be in Thailand, he predicted that, because of our work, Codex will become even more important in the future. Then he said, “As you know, the revision of the standards of the mandates and terms of reference was high on the committee agenda in July.” That refers to the demand by the World Health Organization (WHO) representative on Thursday, July7, 2005 that Codex either redefine the terms of reference (e.g., mandate) of the CCNFSDU and Codex Committee on Food Labeling (CCFL) to include nutrition for health or find another committee, task force or group to do it. No mention was publicly made of these other two options so it looks like “determining whether Codex has relationship to nutrition and, if so, what that relationship is” will be undertaken by the CCNFSDU. General Stubblebine and I are waiting with baited breath to find out if nutrition actually does have a relationship to nutrition and, if so, what it is. Or what Dr. Grossklaus will let it be. You couldn’t tell much about the relationship between Codex and nutrition today except to say that they are having a pretty big spat. WHO appeared to have its hackles up as Dr. G. ignored it repeatedly, but Dr. G. was significantly dismissive and argumentative towards that organization.

During his obviously un-cleared-by-Dr.-Grossklaus speech, the government participant noted that CCNFSDU needed to determine what role the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Strategy for Diet, Physical Exercise and Health was going to play in CCNFSDU and what role CCNFSDU would play in its implementation. You will recall that last July the WHO representative severely chastised Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) for not making a significant contribution to human health in its 42 years of existence and then, the next day, demanded that Codex participate in implementing the WHO Global Strategy. Dr. Slorach, the CAC Chairman, ended the discussion of both issues peremptorily and there was no further consideration of the topics at that time. He also asked for a document from WHO stating what it wanted Codex to do to bring about this implementation.

So after a couple of greetings from a couple of folks, we got down to business. The WHO representative (names to follow tomorrow when the list comes out) told the CCNFSDU that she would convene an electronic forum to allow people from CCNFSDU to work with WHO to develop a meaningful way to implement the WHO Global Strategy. This sounded reasonable enough to me but the course of this matter was not smooth. There were objections from several people who did not like the agenda item. Dr. Grossklaus put the discussion off in a number of different ways, some bureaucratic and some procedural. Ultimately, he assigned the whole discussion to Agenda Item #10, the last substantive item of the meeting. This had the advantage of serving as a double edged sword: forcing people to race through the other items on the agenda so that there would be no time for the detailed discussion earlier agenda items required and then, at the last part of the schedule there would be insufficient time for the apparently unwelcome WHO Global Strategy discussion.

Several delegates objected to this ploy, including the UK, Consumers International (a Non Governmental Organization) and India who demanded that the important topic of the WHO global strategy be given adequate time. Dr. G. was having none of it! Item 10 he said and item 10 it stayed.

The WHO representative seemed to ignore Dr. G. and gave a detailed history of the WHO Global Strategy, Codex’s involvement and the mechanism for decision making process by CCNFSDU. Dr. G. rudely cut her off and sent the discussion careening into a direction much more to his liking.

But there was a mini-mutiny on Dr. G.’s hands at that moment, it would seem. A rapid-fire free-for-all broke loose in which people were calling out their pet projects and issues with no particular rhyme or reason that we could see:
Norway demanded that the addition of sugar to baby cereal was dangerous and wanted to discuss it right away. Postpone the discussion, said Dr. G, until later.
IOCFA (an infant formula GMO) stridently ordered the Codex regulations to do nothing to hurt the babies. Dr. G. ignored her completely.

Then IBFAN (another baby feeding NGO) demanded that the WHO Global Strategy on Infant Feeding be implemented, Not a nod from Dr. G.

Consumer International noted that it supported the points made by the previous speakers but that we must discuss advertising and how food is communicated to consumers and so on. And so it went for a while with a lot of topics brought forward and no productive discussion of any of them.

While that was pretty interesting, things heated up quite a bit during the cereal based infant food and gluten-free discussions. Dr. G made statements like, “Our mandate is to determine nutrition claims, not health claims” and “Nutrition labels are not about labeling for health, they are about labeling for trade purposes.”

The big event of the day, far and away, was agenda item
No. 4: Discussion Paper on the Proposals for Additional or Revised Nutrient Reference Values (NRVs) for Labeling Purposes. South Africa had produced a report via an Electronic Working Group which addressed the need to reevaluate the Nutrient Reference Values established by the Helsinki Consultation (September, 1988). The report stated that the “label was a source of nutrition information”, “… based on an amount sufficient to promote optimum health” and “the promotion of better health for the world through optimum nutrient intake, would be in line with the WHO/FAO’s request that Codex, specifically the CCNFSDU and CCFL, implement the WHO Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Exercise and Health”.

Poor Dr. G! He just could not get away from the WHO Global Strategy.
The Discussion Paper segregated people into age, gender and condition groups (e.g., infants, children under 4, pregnant women, etc.) listing a group of 32 vitamins and minerals, noting “initially only vitamins and minerals will be dealt with”.

Dr. Grossklaus was NOT amused. He ripped into the delegate from South Africa viciously. Here is part of what he said before sending the South African delegate back to the drawing board to come up with something he liked better while ranting (verbatim quote:)
“Let’s stick to the basic issues: IT IS ABOUT LABELING, NOT NUTRITION.
The Helsinki paper, the purpose of NRVs as established in the Helsinki paper, was about serving nutrient labeling so that consumers world wide should know about a food containing a significant amount of calcium, not about finding a maximum health value of that nutrient.
….This committee should stick to its original terms of reference. Let us first agree on the general terms for establishing the values for nutrient NRVs.
The [WHO] Global Strategy does not form part of this. Maybe that is not fair, but this is about labeling, not about providing them with optimum food. This is about global trade in products offering vitamins and minerals. That is our mandate. That’s it. This is about trade.”

The South African delegate did not have anything to say.

There were other enlightening moments today, as when Dr. G. (in response to the delegate from Tanzania who called for good listening in the spirit of consensus)
condescendingly made it clear that while it was an African tradition to listen to what everyone had to say he was “not going to take the time to listen to what everyone has to say since I am not wearing my African tie today. I promise I will wear it tomorrow!”

Not a fun day. However, the good news is that we spoke with numerous delegates and discussed with them the fact that our Revised Vitamin and Mineral Guideline can be passed by their countries, leaving them Codex Compliant so that they avoid the wallop of World Trade Organization (WTO) trade sanctions and allow them to serve the real nutritional needs of their people, instead of, as Dr. G. so eloquently put it, “[making decisions which are] about labeling, not about providing them with optimum food!

What can you do? Ride the freedom mouse: take a few minutes to send a few letters AND send a join in letter on the Citizen Petition to provide strong leadership for protecting our health freedom and assuming an international leadership role in protecting it around the world to end world hunger and promote world health. Our Citizen Petition with the Revised Vitamin and Mineral Guideline as part of it does all that.

Oh yes, one other thing: please donate generously. Every penny goes for the freedom fight. Join us. Things are just getting interesting.

Come back tomorrow: I’ll let you know what’s cooking.

Yours in health and freedom,
Dr. Laibow
Medical Director
Natural Solutions Foundation

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