The Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (nVWA) is set to launch a major offensive endorsing the censorship of online health content, including escalating restrictions in free speech. On December 14, 2012, Codex Alimentarius will shift into overdrive when a European Regulation goes into effect restricting all health claims for food unless approved by a regulatory body.
Codex is a subsidiary body of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO). Codex develops international food safety and quality standards, such as standards concerning the safety of food additives. Standards set by Codex traditionally served as a minimum floor for less developed countries. It has over 170 member countries within the framework including the EU and US which have participated in Codex for decades.
The Codex Alimentarius Commission is responsible for establishing a system of guidelines, standards and recommendations that guides the direction of the global food supply. It aims to tell us what is safe, but in the process often uses criteria that are manipulated to support the interests of the world’s largest corporations.
The text for the Codex Guideline on Vitamin and Mineral Food Supplements, which has been based closely on the EU Directive–sharing some of its text verbatim–was ratified in July 2005 but it was finalised by stealth earlier this year.
It is now being slowly integrated as the basis for national and regional laws in many parts of the world. To a large extent, the EU is now adopted its standards and implementing Codex, so all countries in the EU will eventually be required to abide by the policies and recommendations set forth. The Netherlands is one of those countries that they are attempting to test the platform.
The European regulation 432/2012 (presented in Dutch) establishes a list of permitted health claims for foods that do not have a disease risk. Who decides if they have a disease risk? The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) who is the watchdog for such regulations and also assisted in the commission and draft of the legislation. The EFSA is similar to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the US except they oversee risk assessment for the entire EU and focus mostly on the food chain whereas the FDA extends its reach far beyond the food industry.
The EFSA is demanding that a list of claims must be submitted together with the conditions applying to them and references to the relevant scientific evidence. Who decides if the scientific evidence is relevant? You guessed it, the EFSA, and their scientific opinion is considered as valid scientific evidence according to the legislation.
A very interesting observation on the 10th clause of the legislation states that the Commission has a number of evaluations that have been submitted relating to herbs and “botanical substances” which the EFSA has bluntly stated that further evaluation will be required before the Commission is able to release their “opinion” in substantiating the claims and these substances will not be approved until these evaluations are completed.
That means that despite many of these botanical substances having deep historical and intellectual roots in the cultures of many European countries, existing for hundreds, if not thousands, of years, the EFSA deems it is now the acting God on the effectiveness of these substances and that their scientific “opinion” may trump and negate thousands of years of empirical evidence.
Perhaps the most damaging article in this legislation comes in the 12th clause which indefinitely restricts the ability of health journalists to promote natural health to any extent. The clause states that no health claims are permitted by any entity unless those claims have been substantiated by the EFSA with a favorable evaluation and that NO CAUSAL LINK can be established between the claim and a food category, or one of its components unless approved.
For example, an editor of a popular Dutch magazine was recently issued a warning from the nVWA, with the threat of a fine (30,000 euros) to if he repeated the offense. In the editor’s column was a specific brand of chocolate. The chocolate manufacturer claimed a positive effect on diabetes. Antioxidant flavonoids in chocolate have been scientifically validated as having the ability to improve the body’s sensitivity to insulin which directly benefits diabetics. This was ridiculed by the nVWA insisting that a journalist could not reiterate a link between a specific food or it’s ingredients and relate it to disease prevention, regardless of the manufacturer’s claim.
On the nVWA website, they admit on deferring consensus to the EFSA on all claims made by any party who states that a food product or ingredient can cure, treat or prevent illness:
- Product names cannot be related to medical claims
- Magazine editors may not recommend products with medical claims.
- Medical claims on food information booklets, which are specifically designed for retailers or professionals (such as doctors or therapists) are prohibited.
- Ads about food products should not refer to other documents or websites that have medical claims (about the product or its ingredients).
- If a specific food product is advertised on a website, there should not be any association or link anywhere on that website on medical information about the product or any of its ingredients.
- A website with a specific food product may not link or refer to pages outside the site with medical information relating to these products, no matter what the nature of that medical information is. Even medical claims for products in a chat room setting on the Internet are prohibited.
Under the new guidelines, any website making a medical claim will first require approval and second will be prohibited from making any other claim regarding, for example nutritional value, or identifying any other value (or detriment) of specific ingredients.
So a specific website will not be able to associate, for example chocolate, with any health benefit without approval. The same restriction will apply to any ads running on the website or any links that it may make to other websites making their own health claims regarding the benefits of chocolate.
Can you grasp the amount of restrictions this type of regulation will attempt to enforce? I really don’t think the people of the Netherlands have anything to worry about. Any piece of paper that attempts to enact control measures with this amount of fear and control in mind only head in one direction…down the toilet.
It will be as enforceable as the fines threatened to millions a decade ago for copyright music downloads on the internet. Where did those threats end up? A few people being made an example of? People then developed peer-to-peer and torrents to bypass centralization. The bureaucrats were then clueless on to how to counter or enforce an unenforceable fine.
What the EFSA and nVWA do not realize is that people WILL NOT be controlled on the internet. That time has come and gone. Censorship is still alive and well in many parts of the world including the United States and many other developed nations. However, what the EFSA and nVWA are attempting to control with these types of regulations inevitably work against the control matrix. It will push people beyond what they consider acceptable. When that happens there is a tipping point that the brainchilds of such draconian legislation usually fail to see because they are so self-absorbed in their own power, that they do not realize that really have no power over the people. The result is resistance, defiance and ultimately a breakdown of all regulations they thought were enforceable.
To all my friends and readers in Netherlands, have no fear as you are more powerful than any piece of paper they produce to control your free speech. This legislation will fall in a much shorter period it took for it to rise. The truth can no longer be censored, and they are terrified at what we will all say next!
Marco Torres is a research specialist, writer and consumer advocate for healthy lifestyles. He holds degrees in Public Health and Environmental Science and is a professional speaker on topics such as disease prevention, environmental toxins and health policy.