Codex adopts twenty food standards at Rome meeting

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Codex alimentarius

International food body Codex adopted more than twenty new and
amended food standards during its annual meeting last week,
including a code of practice to minimise antimicrobial resistance,
and a decision to split the Codex Committee on Food Additives and
Contaminants.

Created in 1963 by UN bodies, the Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation, Codex Alimentarius develops food standards and guidelines for codes of practice in the global food chain. At the body's 28th session last week in Rome, where some 120 countries participated, Codex "tentatively" agreed to a task force addressing antimicrobial resistance. Antimicrobial resistance had been debated for several years and agreement has been difficult because it involves collaboration from different sectors: animal health and production, human health and drug manufacturing. Resistance to antimicrobial drugs such as antibiotics, is an emerging public health problem caused by a number of factors, including the inappropriate use of antibiotics in humans; antibiotic treatment of illnesses in animals used for human consumption and, in some cases, to promote faster growth. A new task force will bring all these sectors together and develop a holistic approach to this growing problem. "This has been an extremely productive session. Even though only one year has passed since the last CAC meeting, we adopted over 20 standards which, when used appropriately, will better protect consumer health and improve their confidence in the products they consume," says Dr Stuart Slorach, the out-going CAC chairman. In one of its first decisions, the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) also moved to adopt global guidelines for vitamin and mineral food supplements. The guidelines recommend labelling that contains information on maximum consumption levels of vitamin and mineral food supplements, "assisting countries to increase consumer information, which will help consumers use them in a safe and effective way." Only in cases where food does not provide sufficient vitamins and minerals should supplements be used, say the guidelines. In other decisions, the CAC decided to split the Codex Committee on Food Additives and Contaminants into separate committees beginning in 2007, in order to deal "more effectively" with each issue. But the group failed to deliver a decision on the outstanding issue of intellectual property concerns over the labelling and composition of Parmesan cheese. No consensus was reached and the CAC put the issue on hold, leaving the interested countries to "continue consultations among themselves" to seek a resolution of the issue. Key principles embodied in Codex are consumer protection, fair practice in the sale of food, and facilitating trade. The UN-backed group came under attack recently when consumer organisations said Codex Alimentarius was failing them. Just 32 out of 211 consumer organisations responded to a survey from Consumers International (CI), from which CI concluded that national Codex consultations are influenced by industry lobbyists more than consumer representatives. "Our main concern is that the voice of consumer groups is not heard," a spokesperson for the UK-based group told FoodNavigator.com at the time. But while the consumer groups claim Codex could do much for them, other stakeholders show strong support. "If there are differences at a national consultation level - money, tradition, infrastucture - is that the fault of Codex?" queried food lawyer Raymond O'Rourke. Defenders of Codex say it has played, and still plays, a crucial role in providing an administrative back-up on food standards for developing countries, notably for ministries implementing from a zero base a framework for food safety law.

Related topics: Policy, Food Safety & Quality

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