Commission issues proposals on international food safety standards

By Ahmed ElAmin

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food safety standards, Codex alimentarius, European commission

The European Commission has issued a series of comments on proposed
changes to the UN's international food safety standards on such
issues as labelling and microbiological risk.

Other comments relate to proposed international standards on veterinary drug residues, milk and milk products, additives, contaminants and flavouring agents.

The comments form part of an ongoing programme to create international food safety standards under the Codex Alimentarius, a body set up by the Food and Agricultural Organisation and the World Health Organisation. The standards could eventually affect the way processors operate worldwide as they become incorporated into law.

The comments released this week range on a wide variety of draft guidelines. New rules for the labelling of prepackaged foods remain controversal in the EU. In its comments the European Commission notes that it was unable to reach a consensus among member states over the issue of the quantitative declaration of ingredients.

The proposed amendments will be up for debate at the next sitting of the Codex committee dealing with the issue, due to be held 1-5 May in Ottawa, Canada.

The proposed additional requirements would require every food sold as a mixture or combination to disclose the ingoing percentage, by weight or volume, of any ingredient at the time of the manufacture of the food.

The Commission supports the the proposal that the requirement would apply to ingredients, compound ingredients or categories of ingredients that a manufacturer emphasises as present on the label through words or pictures or graphics or is essential to characterise or distinguish the food.

The Commission is not in favour of retaining proposals to require labelling of ingredients when health claims are made or implications about the presence of any fruits, vegetables, whole grains or added sugars.

"Nutritional and health related information are dealt with by other standards and guidelines, which require a more specified and complete declaration of some ingredients or nutrient,"​ the Commission stated in justifying its decision.

The Commission does not consider it necessary to specify a limit on quantitative ingredient declarations in cases when an ingredient has been used for the purposes of flavouring.

"It would rather allow for certain flexibility, as the necessary dose for flavouring may be variable,"​ the Commission stated. Instead of specifying a limit of two to five percent as proposed the Commission suggests a declaration could be made that "The ingredient is used in small quantities for the purposes of flavouring."

On microbiological risk management, the Commission notes that if scientific data is incomplete governments should have the responsibility for taking provisional measures to protect the consumers pending a more complete information.

The texts of the proposed changes and the comments can be accessed at the Commission's site on food safety​.

Related topics: Food Safety & Quality

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