Most people would not think of Geneva, Switzerland as an uncomfortably hot city. Still, the reason for braving the heat here was a good and necessary one: The 38th session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission.
Wikipedia has been touted by some as the people’s encyclopedia, a collaborative effort where anyone and everyone can submit his or her own entries or edits to entries in the encyclopedia. In reality, though, there are editors and these editors most definitely have biases that are reflected in the Wikipedia entries.
One of the most highly charged issues at the Codex Committee on Residues of Veterinary Drugs in Foods (CCRVDF), held during the last week of April in San Jose, Costa Rica, was the attempt to adopt a Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) for recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), otherwise known as recombinant bovine somatotropin (rbST), which, for a very long time, has been waiting in the wings at a final Step 8 for its adoption by the Codex Alimentarius Commission.
The drug companies had a problem. They always have a problem, but this one looked huge. For some time, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) whistleblower had been helping Brian Hooker, Ph.D., uncover data manipulation by the CDC that showed deliberate suppression of scientific evidence linking autism to vaccines among African-American babies.
Angelika Tritscher, the World Health Organization representative to Codex Alimentarius meetings, aptly posed a question to the Codex delegates assembled at a Food Contaminants meeting in Moscow last year, “How can we keep Codex relevant?” In posing this question, Dr. Tritscher quickly cut to the heart of the potential downfall of Codex. My response to Dr. Tritscher’s question was, “If Codex wants to remain relevant to consumers, then it must create food standards that are truly healthy and make sense.”
As with life, words have plain meanings. That is, we all generally expect the basic meaning of a word to be what we know it to be through our experience and education. A “cat” does not mean a “dog.” Instead, they are what we expect them to be just as water is water and blue means blue. Without such commonly accepted meanings, we would be lost at sea, unable to communicate with one another and transmit information. Hence, shared definitions exist that typically transcend time and even cultures.
My first trip to Europe was when I was a young boy and Kennedy was still president. Everything seemed so different there, from the public restrooms at the Brussels airport where the men’s and women’s entrances led into the exact same room to the frothy, thick, hot milk in an almost-too-big tasse that I happily slurped in a small Parisian café, leaving a warm, white smear on my face and in my throat. There were no McDonald’s, Starbucks or ubiquitous American sitcoms like Friends. Life, European life, was an alien bustle and blur that never quite lost its seductive grip on my soul.
After the bloodbath in the fields of France during the First World War in which almost 1.4 million French lives were lost, the Third French Republic was determined that this would never happen again. Vast sums were approved in the 1930s to construct a series of strong forts and powerful buried defensive positions strung in a line on the border between France and its old enemy Germany. This became known as the Maginot Line, named after André Maginot, the French Minister of War at the time; and it is best remembered as a huge failure.
In a glitzy roll-out last February that featured both First Lady Michelle Obama and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, M.D., the FDA proudly announced its first major changes to nutrition and supplement labeling in more than 20 years. In effect, the Agency proposed “to update the Nutrition Facts label for packaged foods to reflect the latest scientific information, including the link between diet and chronic diseases such as obesity and heart disease. The proposed label also would replace out-of-date serving sizes to better align with how much people really eat, and it would feature a fresh design to highlight key parts of the label such as calories and serving sizes” (1).