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Strategic objectives and priorities

6. The fundamental objective of the Codex Alimentarius Commission is to establish sound internationally agreed guidelines for national food control systems based on the criteria of consumer health protection and fair practices in trade and taking into account the needs and special concerns of all countries. All of the objectives listed below are considered to be equally important to the overall achievement of the strategic vision.

Objective 1:
Promoting Sound Regulatory Framework

7. In many countries, effective food control is undermined by the existence of fragmented legislation, multiple jurisdictions and weaknesses in surveillance, monitoring and enforcement. Sound national food control and regulatory systems are essential to assuring the health and safety of domestic population as well as assuring the safety and quality of foods entering international trade. While the establishment of regulatory framework is fundamentally a national responsibility, the CAC and its parent bodies, the FAO and WHO, have a strong interest in promoting national regulatory systems that are based on international principles and guidelines and address all components of the food chain. The development of sound food control and regulatory infrastructure including human resources is particularly important for developing countries as they seek to achieve higher levels of food safety and nutrition and will require high level political and policy commitment as highlighted in the report of the 1999 Melbourne Conference on International Food Trade Beyond 2000.2 An effective food control system is critical in enabling all countries to assure the safety of their foods entering international trade and to ensure that imported foods conform to national requirements. Successful negotiation of bilateral mutual recognition and/or equivalence also depends on the ability of countries to assure each other of the integrity of national regulatory systems.

8. The priorities for the CAC in the development of international standards and related texts will be to:

Objective 2:
Promoting Widest and Consistent Application of Scientific Principles and Risk Analysis

9. The CAC will promote and further strengthen its capacity to include health considerations in its standards and guidelines through the widest possible application of risk analysis based on Codex principles. Risk analysis as it applies to food, is an emerging discipline and will require ongoing and sustained inputs from the Commission, its parent organizations and national governments to promote conceptual development and application at the international and national levels. Risk Communication will be vital to this process. The early implementation of the CAC Action Plan on Risk Analysis by the Commission and member governments is essential to:

10. The CAC will also need to accord high priority to ongoing development of concepts and principles and the establishment of sound working principles for the application of risk analysis both at international and national levels. It should also promote better understanding of risk analysis through technical assistance programmes. A strengthened expert scientific evaluation structure for addressing chemical, microbiological hazards and emerging pathogens will also be critical to support and underpin the Codex standards development processes.

11. Consistent with the Statements of Principle, adopted by CAC in 1995, the Commission will need to have due regard, where appropriate, to other legitimate factors relevant to health protection of consumers and for the promotion of fair practices in food trade when developing standards and guidelines. International consensus on the scope and application of other legitimate factors in Codex decision making will be essential for their sound and consistent application right across the Codex system.

Objective 3:
Promoting Linkages/ between Codex and other Multilateral Regulatory Instruments and Conventions

12. The CAC does not and cannot operate in isolation. It needs to work closely with other relevant international standards setting and regulatory bodies to promote close cooperation and dialogue on matters of common interest. As the WTO-recognized international body for establishing food safety standards the Commission has a clear obligation to establish international food standards for the protection of consumers' health and ensuring fair practices in food trade, and these standards may be used by Member countries in both domestic regulation and international trade. At the same time the Commission needs to interact closely with related international bodies. and take due account of international regulatory initiatives and developments thereby promoting coordination of all food standards work undertaken by international governmental and nongovernmental organizations. Such cooperation is also important to minimize duplication of effort. Food safety and issues such as biotechnology are of global interest and are the subjects of debate and discussion in a number of multilateral institutions. The CAC has, by virtue of its lead role in international food standards, a strategic interest in working closely with relevant multilateral institutions and conventions to provide its technical input and expertise and contribute to building international consensus on contemporary food standards and regulatory policy matters.

Objective 4:
Enhance Capacity to Respond Effectively and Expeditiously to New Issues, Concerns and Developments in the Food Sector

13. With the rapid development of technology and emergence of food safety as a major issue of public policy, there is a need to enhance the capacity of Codex to respond to members' needs in a way that maintains confidence in its ability as the international organization for food standards. There are a number of important considerations in this context. A major issue for Codex is the length of time it takes to establish standards. Codex processes are too protracted and are not responsive to current expectations and public policy imperatives. Governments around the world are having to grapple with significant regulatory challenges and Codex, as the global food standards setting body, needs to be able to respond effectively and expeditiously through the development of internationally harmonized solutions to food safety and international trade matters. A refocusing of the manner in which the Commission and its subsidiary bodies produce outcomes must be a strategic priority. The key functions of a refocused Commission would be to:

14. At the subsidiary body level, major improvements can be achieved through the establishment of time-limited procedures and through a review of the current step procedure. Timely development of standards will also require improved alignment of the timing and frequency of meetings of commodity and general subject committees.

15. As noted in the introductory sections, the parent bodies of the Commission accord high priority to food safety and international standards development programmes. Host governments also provide significant financial support. Ultimately, however, the ability of Codex to fulfil its mandate and respond to the growing needs and expectations of its members will depend on the availability of additional resources. Codex meetings and related activities already represent a heavy workload and further intensification of work will require additional financial and human resources.

Objective 5:
Promoting Maximum Membership and Participation

16. Full participation by all Codex Members and other interested parties in the work of the CAC and its subsidiary bodies is now more important than ever. The participation of all members and relevant intergovernmental and non governmental organizations is critical to sound decision-making and ensuring that Codex standards and related texts take account of the full range of interest and viewpoints. Since the early nineties there has been a significant increase in the membership of Codex with developing countries now constituting a significant proportion of total membership. Notwithstanding this growth in membership many countries are still faced with serious financial and human resource constraints to effective participation in Codex activities. Achieving the objective of maximum participation will require specific and ongoing action to address the following:

17. In addition to actions to promote participation of member countries, the CAC also needs to continue its efforts to promote and facilitate the participation of consumers and public interest groups in its processes at the international leveland encourage governments to take action at the national level. Given the strong public interest in food safety and regulatory issues, the involvement and input of consumers and non governmental groups at the international and national levels is essential to build public confidence in international standards and assure the strong public input, acceptance and support for Codex standards, guidelines and recommendations as a basis for domestic regulation and trade.

Objective 6:
Promoting Maximum Application of Codex Standards

18. As the pre-eminent international standards setting body for food, the CAC has a clear and strategic interest in promoting the maximum use of its standards both for domestic regulation and international trade. International harmonization based on Codex standards, guidelines and recommendations is essential to promoting a global approach to consumer health protection (including systems for the reduction of food-borne risks) and minimizing the negative effects of technical regulations on international trade. This will require sustained commitment and effort in the following key directions:

2 Report of the Conference on International Food Trade beyond 2000:Science based Decisions, Harmonization, Equivalence and Mutual Recognition, Melbourne, Australia, 11-15 October,1999, Appendix 1, p.29.

3 Codex Alimentarius Commission, Procedural Manual, Eleventh Edition, p.180.

4Codex Alimentarius Commission, Report of 23rd session, Rome, 28 June-3 July 1999, p.10-11.

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