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NHF DEBATES ASPARTAME, ALUMINUM, AND MELAMINE STANDARDS AT TWO RECENT CODEX MEETINGS

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NHF DEBATES ASPARTAME, ALUMINUM, AND MELAMINE STANDARDS

AT TWO RECENT CODEX MEETINGS

April 12, 2011

The National Health Federation (NHF) attended two recent Codex Committee meetings on opposite sides of the planet.  The Codex Committee on Food Additives (CCFA) met in Xiamen, China from March 14-18, 2011, and debated, among other things, aspartame and aluminum food-additive maximum levels.  The following week the Codex Committee on Contaminants in Food (CCCF) met in The Hague, the Netherlands, from March 21-25, 2011, to debate melamine and other contaminant permissible limits.  The NHF was at both meetings to speak out for the individual consumer’s interests.

The Chinese Codex meeting saw both victory and defeat on the two main issues there.  Still hopelessly enamored with the artificial sweeteners acesulfame potassium, aspartame, and sucralose, the CCFA unfortunately endorsed Acceptable Daily Intakes for these three substances at high and unhealthy levels.  These endorsements ignored the arguments and evidence presented by NHF to the Committee that the levels – if they were to be allowed at all – should be almost 40 times lower!

In sharp contrast, CCFA awoke to the health risks of aluminum-containing food additives.  In 2008, only the CCFA Chairman and NHF had any negative words to say about aluminum.  This year it was a whole different ball game, in large part due to the JECFA re-evaluation of the risks of these food additives: sodium aluminum phosphates, aluminum ammonium sulfate, sodium aluminum silicate, calcium aluminum silicate, and aluminum silicate.  The Provisional Tolerable Weekly Intake (PTWI) for aluminum was dramatically reduced downwards from 7 mg/kg to 1 mg/kg bodyweight.  The European Union and other delegations argued forcefully against aluminum in food, welcome support for NHF’s previously lone arguments on this issue.  Eventually, NHF predicts we will see aluminum eliminated as a food additive.

The Dutch Codex meeting saw melamine, a dangerous food contaminant that has already killed and injured many, recognized for the menace it is.  As Scott Tips, the NHF’s delegate at these meetings, said, “Here the issue was very specific: what should be the maximum levels set for melamine in liquid infant formulas?  The existing limit was 1.0 mg/kg of bodyweight, with the Canadian delegation saying that this should be cut in half to 0.5 mg/kg.  While this Canadian position was an improvement over the existing level, delegations such as Costa Rica, the EU, Kenya, Peru, Nicaragua, Tanzania, Cameroun, the Philippines, the International Dairy Federation, and the NHF were all arguing that it should be lowered to 0.125 mg/kg of bodyweight. The NHF actually argued that the level should be set at zero, but recognizing that the mood of the Committee would not accept a zero-tolerance level, supported the lowest possible level of 0.125 mg/kg.

In the end, the lowest level for melamine contamination prevailed, although with a twist: the CCCF Chairman decided to “round up” the number to 0.15 mg/kg.  NHF argued to the Committee that, if anything, the number should be rounded down.  The Chairman stuck to his 0.15 level; but, far worse, the Committee accepted an exemption that made a mockery of even this lowered level.  The exemption does not even count any melamine contamination that comes from packaging materials!  So, infants drinking liquid formula can be poisoned with melamine at far greater levels.  Typical for this Committee, establish a limit on a contaminant and then at the same time create an exemption that you can drive a truck through.   www.thenhf.com

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