11 February 2003
CONSUMERS CALL ON WHO NOT TO SEEK INDUSTRY FUNDING FOR ITS FOOD STANDARDS WORK: PRESS RELEASE
Consumers call on the World Health Organisation NOT to seek industry funding for its food standards work
Consumers International (CI) will this week be urging the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UN Food Agricultural Organisation (FAO) to re-consider the implications for consumers worldwide of accepting industry funding to support their food standards work. Consumers International's (CI) concerns will be raised this Friday at a Codex Alimentarius meeting in Geneva where the WHO/FAO will formally launch their proposal for a special fund aimed at encouraging the participation of developing countries in the work of Codex
"Whilst Consumers International recognises the urgent need for increased developing country participation in setting food standards and welcomes the WHO/FAO's commitment to this, we are seriously concerned by plans to seek industry funding for this intiative" says Rowshan Hannan, CI Food Policy Officer and member of the CI delegation to the Codex meeting.
CI is particularly concerned about the potential for industry to influence decision- making within Codex given the crucial role that Codex plays in harmonising food standards between countries and ensuring immunity from WTO challenges.
"The potential for industry to use their position as funders to promote their own interests within the Codex discussions, could have serious implications for the setting of standards for food safety and consequently for consumers worldwide says Hannan.
CI sites a well documented case of the tobacco industry working behind the scenes to influence a Codex standard for a pesticide widely used on tobacco, as one reason for its concern.
Hannan states, "Many corporations have a direct interest in the outcome of Codex standard discussions. For example, Nestle has lobbied hard regarding the recommendations of one committee on the use of infant formula, which manufactures. Monsanto has also lobbied Codex extensively regarding recommendations on labelling and safety testing of genetically engineered food"
CI recognises that the reluctance of developed country governments to finance the projected U.S. $35-40 million required for the fund has lead the WHO to indicate that it will rely on industry for part of it. CI will therefore, be calling on developed country governments to finance the entire amount needed for the fund. CI notes that current WHO guidelines actually prohibit it from taking industry funding for the sorts of activities that the special Fund would carry out.
"Developed country governments have said they want more developing country participation. Now is time to put up the money and pledge the required funding so that the WHO does not have to violate its own guidelines on industry contributions to launch this much needed fund" says Hannan
CI will be presenting delegates with examples of where industry funding has been used to influence WHO/FAO decisions on food safety in order to ensure that their concerns over industry funding are properly addressed. CI will also be calling for:
1. The Codex Trust Fund to be financed by public monies, transparently reported and managed
2. A discussion to take place immediately regarding how the managers of the Trust Fund plan to avoid conflicts of interest and violations of the provisions of WHO "Guidelines on Interaction with Commercial Entities to Achieve Health Outcomes"
3. To make fully transparent all sources of funding and the basis of funding-related decisions
Note to editors:
Consumer International's paper on the WHO/FAO Trust Fund is available on request. The paper highlights CI's concerns regarding industry funding and provides interesting examples of where past industry funding has created cause for concern.
The 25th Extraordinary Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting takes place between 13 - 15 February at the International Conference Centre in Geneva, Switzerland
The WHO/FAO Trust Fund to assist the participation of developing countries and countries in transition in Codex discussions, will be formally launched on Friday 14 February at the WHO in Geneva.
The Codex Alimentarius was established by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 1962 in order to harmonise food standards between countries. Consumers International has managed a number of projects with the aim of increasing consumer involvement in the decisions made by Codex, especially from developing countries and Eastern Europe. Consumers International positions at Codex committees are developed by member organizations.
For further information, please contact: Maya Vaughan, Consumers International, tel. +44 20 7226 6663 or mobile: + 44 (0) 7931 798 086
Consumers International is a federation of consumer organisations dedicated to the protection and promotion of consumers' rights worldwide through empowering national consumer groups and campaigning at the international level. It currently represents over 250 organisations in 115 countries. For more information, see: www.consumersinternational.org