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Guidelines for Codex Committees and Ad Hoc Intergovernmental Task Forces


1. By virtue of Article 7 of the Statutes of the Codex Alimentarius Commission and Rule IX.1(b) of its Rules of Procedure, the Commission has established a number of Codex Committees and ad hoc Intergovernmental Task Forces to prepare standards in accordance with the Procedure for the Elaboration of Codex Standards and Coordinating Committees to exercise general coordination of its work in specific regions or groups of countries. The Rules of Procedure of the Commission shall apply, mutatis mutandis, to Codex Committees, Coordinating Committees and ad hoc Intergovernmental Task Forces. The Guidelines applying to Codex Committees as descibed in this Secion apply also to Codex ad hoc Intergovernmental Task Forces.

Composition of Codex Committees


2. Membership of Codex Committees is open to Members of the Commission who have notified the Director-General of FAO or WHO of their desire to be considered as members thereof or to selected members designated by the Commission. Membership of Regional Coordinating Committees is open only to Members of the Commission belonging to the region or group of countries concerned.


3. Any other Member of the Commission or any Member or Associate Member of FAO or WHO which has not become a Member of the Commission may participate as an observer at any Codex Committee if it has notified the Director-General of FAO or WHO of its wish to do so. Such countries may participate fully in the discussions of the Committee and shall be provided with the same opportunities as other Members to express their point of view (including the submission of memoranda), but without the right to vote or to move motions either of substance or of procedure. International organizations which have formal relations with either FAO or WHO should also be invited to attend in an observer capacity sessions of those Codex Committees which are of interest to them.

Organization and Duties


4. The Codex Alimentarius Commission will designate a member country of the Commission, which has indicated its willingness to accept financial and all other responsibility, as having responsibility for appointing a chairperson of the Committee. The member country concerned is responsible for appointing the chairperson of the Committee from among its own nationals. Should this person for any reason be unable to take the chair, the member country concerned shall designate another person to perform the functions of the chairperson for as long as the chairperson is unable to do so. A Committee may appoint at any session one or more rapporteurs from among the delegates present.


5. A member country to which a Codex Committee has been assigned is responsible for providing all conference services including the secretariat. The secretariat should have adequate administrative support staff able to work easily in the languages used at the session and should have at its disposal adequate word processing and document reproducing equipment. Interpretation, preferably simultaneous, should be provided from and into all languages used at the session, and if the report of the session is to be adopted in more than one of the working languages of the Committee, then the services of a translator should be available. The Committee secretariat and the Joint FAO/WHO (Codex) Secretariat are charged with the preparation of the draft report in consultation with the rapporteurs, if any.

Duties and Terms of Reference

6. The duties of a Codex Committee shall include:

(a) the drawing up of a list of priorities as appropriate, among the subjects and products within its terms of reference,

(b) consideration of the types of safety and quality elements (or recommendations) to be covered, whether in standards for general application or in reference to specific food products,

(c) consideration of the types of product to be covered by standards, e.g., whether materials for further processing into food should be covered,

(d) preparation of draft Codex standards within its terms of reference,

(e) reporting to each session of the Commission on the progress of its work and, where necessary, on any difficulties caused by its terms of reference, together with suggestions for their amendment.

(f) the review and, as necessary, revision of existing standards and related texts on a scheduled, periodic basis to ensure that the standards and related texts within its terms of reference are consistent with current scientific knowledge and other relevant information.


Invitations and Provisional Agenda

7. Sessions of Codex Committees and Coordinating Committees will be convened by the Directors-General of FAO and WHO in consultation with the chairperson of the respective Codex Committee. The letter of invitation and provisional agenda shall be prepared by the Chief, Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme, FAO, Rome, in consultation with the chairperson of the committee for issue by the Directors-General to all Members and Associate Members of FAO and WHO or, in the case of Coordinating Committees, to the countries of the region or group of countries concerned, Codex Contact Points and interested international organizations in accordance with the official mailing lists of FAO and WHO. Chairpersons should, before finalizing the drafts, inform and consult with the national Codex Contact Point where one has been established, and, if necessary, obtain clearance from the national authorities concerned (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Health, or as the case may be). The invitation and Provisional Agenda will be translated and distributed by FAO/WHO in the working languages of the Commission at least four months before the date of the meeting.

8. Invitations should include the following:

(a) title of the Codex Committee,

(b) time and date of opening and date of closing of the session,

(c) place of the session,

(d) languages to be used and arrangements for interpretation, i.e., whether simultaneous or not,

(e) if appropriate, information on hotel accommodation,

(f) request for the names of the chief delegate and other members of the delegation, and for information on whether the chief delegate of a government will be attending as a representative or in the capacity of an observer.

9. Replies to invitations will normally be requested to be sent to reach the chairperson as early as possible and in any case not less than 30 days before the session. A copy should be sent also to the Chief, Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme, FAO, Rome. It is of the utmost importance that by the date requested a reply to invitations should be sent by all those governments and international organizations which intend to participate. The reply should specify the number of copies and the language of the documents required.

10. The Provisional Agenda should state the time, date and place of the meeting and should include the following items:

(a) adoption of the agenda,

(b) if considered necessary, election of rapporteurs,

(c) items relating to subject matter to be discussed, including, where appropriate, the step in the Commission’s Procedure for the Elaboration of Standards at which the item is being dealt with at the session. There should also be reference to the Committee papers relevant to the item,

(d) any other business,

(e) consideration of date and place of next session,

(f) adoption of draft report.

11. The work of the Committee and the length of the meeting should be so arranged as to leave sufficient time at the end of the session for a report of the Committee’s transactions to be agreed.

Organization of Work

12 A Codex or Coordinating Committee may assign specific tasks to countries, groups of countries or to international organizations represented at meetings of the Committee and may ask member countries and international organizations for views on specific points. Ad hoc working groups established to accomplish specific tasks shall be disbanded once the tasks have been accomplished as determined by the Committee. Reports of ad hoc working groups shall be distributed to all members of the Committee and observers in time to allow full consideration of the working groups’ recommendations. A Codex or Coordinating Committee may not set up standing sub-committees, whether open to all Members of the Commission or not, without the specific approval of the Commission.

Preparation and Distribution of Papers

13. Papers for a session should be sent by the chairperson of the Codex Committee concerned at least two months before the opening of the session to the following: (i) all Codex Contact Points, (ii) chief delegates of member countries, of observer countries and of international organizations, and (iii) other participants on the basis of replies received. Twenty copies of all papers in each of the languages used in the Committee concerned should be sent to the Chief, Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme, FAO, Rome.

14. Papers for a session prepared by participants must be drafted in one of the working languages of the Commission, which should, if possible, be one of the languages used in the Codex Committee concerned. These papers should be sent to the chairperson of the Committee, with a copy to the Chief, Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme, FAO, Rome, in good time (see paragraph 13) to be included in the distribution of papers for the session.

15. Documents circulated at a session of a Codex Committee other than draft documents prepared at the session and ultimately issued in a final form, should subsequently receive the same distribution as other papers prepared for the Committee.

16. Codex Contact Points will be responsible for ensuring that papers are circulated to those concerned within their own country and for ensuring that all necessary action is taken by the date specified.

17. Consecutive reference numbers in suitable series should be assigned to all documents of Codex Committees. The reference number should appear at the top right-hand corner of the first page together with a statement of the language in which the document was prepared and the date of its preparation. A clear statement should be made of the provenance (origin or author country) of the paper immediately under the title. The text should be divided into numbered paragraphs. At the end of these guidelines is a series of references for Codex documents adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission for its own sessions and those of its subsidiary bodies.

18. Members of the Codex Committees should advise the Committee chairperson through their Codex Contact Point of the number of copies should advise the Committee chairperson through their Codex Contact Point of the number of copies of documents normally required.

19. Working papers of Codex Committees may be circulated freely to all those assisting a delegation in preparing for the business of the Committee; they should not, however, be published. There is, however, no objection to the publication of reports of the meetings of committees or of completed draft standards.

Conduct of Meetings

20. Meetings of Codex and Coordinating Committees shall be held in public unless the Committee decides otherwise. Member countries responsible for Codex and Coordinating Committees shall decide who should open meetings on their behalf. The chairperson should invite observations from members of the Committee concerning the Provisional Agenda and in the light of such observations formally request the Committee to adopt the Provisional Agenda or the amended agenda. Meetings should be conducted in accordance with the Rules of Procedure of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. Attention is particularly drawn to Rule VI.7 which reads: “The provisions of Rule XII of the General Rules of FAO shall apply mutatis mutandis to all matters which are not specifically dealt with under Rule VI of the present Rules.” Rule XII of the General Rules of FAO, a copy of which will be supplied to all chairpersons of Codex and Coordinating Committees, gives full instructions on the procedures to be followed in dealing with voting, points of order, adjournment and suspension of meetings, adjournment and closure of discussions on a particular item, reconsideration of a subject already decided and the order in which amendments should be dealt with.

21. Chairpersons of Codex Committees should ensure that all questions are fully discussed, in particular statements concerning possible economic implications of standards under consideration at Steps 4 and 7. Chairpersons should also ensure that the written comments of members not present at the session are considered by the Committee; that all issues are put clearly to the Committee. This can usually best be done by stating what appears to be the generally acceptable view and asking delegates whether they have any objection to its being adopted. The chairpersons should always try to arrive at a consensus and should not ask the Committee to proceed to voting if agreement on the Committee’s decision can be secured by consensus.

22. Delegations and delegations from observer countries who wish their opposition to a decision of the Committee to be recorded may do so, whether the decision has been taken by a vote or not, by asking for a statement of their position to be contained in the report of the Committee. This statement should not merely use a phrase such as: “The delegation of X reserved its position” but should make clear the extent of the delegation’s opposition to a particular decision of the Committee and state whether they were simply opposed to the decision or wished for a further opportunity to consider the question.

23. Only the chief delegates of member countries, or of observer countries or of international organizations have the right to speak unless they authorize other members of their delegations to do so.


24. In preparing reports, the following points shall be borne in mind:

(a) decisions should be clearly stated; action taken in regard to economic impact statements should be fully recorded; all decisions on draft standards should be accompanied by an indication of the step in the Procedure that the standards have reached;

(b) if action has to be taken before the next meeting of the committee, the nature of the action, who is to take it and when the action must be completed should be clearly stated;

(c) where matters require attention by other Codex committees, this should be clearly stated;

(d) if the report is of any length, summaries of points agreed and the action to be taken should be included at the end of the report, and in any case, a section should be included at the end of the report showing clearly in summary form:

- standards considered at the session and the steps they have reached;

- standards at any step of the Procedure, the consideration of which has been postponed or which are held in abeyance and the steps which they have reached;

- new standards proposed for consideration, the probable time of their consideration at Step 2 and the responsibility for drawing up the first draft.

25. The following appendices should be attached to the report:
(a) list of participants with full postal addresses,
(b) draft standards with an indication of the step in the Procedure which has been reached.
26. The Joint FAO/WHO Secretariat should ensure that, as soon as posible and in any event not later than one month after the end of the session, copies of the final report, as adopted, are sent to all participants, and all Codex Contact Points.

Drawing Up of Codex Standards

27. A Codex committee, in drawing up standards and related texts, should bear in mind the following:

(a) the guidance given in the General Principles of the Codex Alimentarius;

(b) that all standards and related texts should have a preface containing the following information:

- the description of the standard or related text,

- a brief description of the scope and purpose(s) of the standard or related text,

- references including the step which the standard or related text has reached in the Commission’s Procedures for the Elaboration of Standards, together with the date on which the draft was approved,

- matters in the draft standard or related text requiring endorsement or action by other Codex Committees.

(c) that for standards or any related text for a product which includes a number of sub-categories, the Committee should give preference to the development of a general standard or related text with specific provisions as necessary for sub-categories with different requirements.

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