The breakthrough, reached by the Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses (CNFSDU) at a meeting in Germany last year, has now been ratified by the committee at step five of the eight-step Codex decision-making process.
Maximum levels are of key importance to the supplement industry as they determine the amount of nutrients allowed in supplements. Some countries such as Norway, Malaysia, Thailand, and much of Latin America, still require that the vitamins or minerals contained in a supplement should not exceed 100 per cent of the recommended daily intake determined by the FAO.
However many countries now base the maximum levels on safety, and upper safe levels, rather than RDA. This allows for formulas to contain significantly higher amounts.
The decision by Codex to also follow such an approach is a major victory for the industry, according to the International Alliance of Dietary Supplement Associations (IADSA).
"This is probably the single biggest decision to take place in the dietary supplements industry. Its impact is on the same level as DSHEA in 1994 (US regulation) and the EU Food Supplements Directive of 2002," Simon Pettman, executive director of IADSA, told NutraIngredients.com last year.
The Codex vote to remove RDA will send out a strong signal to those governments still backing RDAs. This could significantly improve global trading for supplement makers.
Codex Alimentarius, set up by the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization, establishes standards for regulation for the 170 member countries, as well as the World Trade Organization. It can therefore be influential, particularly in areas without current standards in place and for new members to WTO, such as China.
"We know that some countries in Latin American have been closely following the decisions. Some Mexican regulators even came to our recent conference in Prague to learn more about risk assessment," said David Pineda, in charge of regulatory affairs at IADSA.
"The Codex guidelines are important because they offer standards that are harmonized at an international level. Facilitating global trade is after all one of the main reasons for the creation of Codex."
He added that there is still significant work to be done on other aspects of the guidelines.
The new text will now be circulated to members for comment from governments and observers, and discussed further (step seven) at the next meeting of the Codex Nutrition Committee, taking place in Bonn in November.