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The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) convened a Joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation on the Application of Risk Analysis to Food Standards Issues which was held at WHO Headquarters, Geneva, Switzerland from 13 to 17 March 1995; the list of participants is presented in Annex 1.

The Consultation was opened by Dr G. Quincke, Director, Division of Food and Nutrition, WHO. He noted that while the need for greater consistency and transparency in the work of Codex was recognized by the 1991 Joint FAO/WHO Conference on Food Standards, Chemicals in Food, and Food Trade, the Consultation was convened at the urgent request of the 41st Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) Executive Committee, which met in June 1994 in Rome. The main objective of the Consultation was to provide recommendations to FAO, WHO, CAC and the member countries concerning the most appropriate approach to the application of risk analysis to food standards and safety issues. To the greatest extent possible, the recommendations should provide a practical approach, which is suitable for rapid adoption by FAO, WHO and the CAC and its advisory and subsidiary bodies, and should include: (i) definitions of risk analysis terms; (ii) principles for risk assessment methodology; and (iii) recommendations to promote the implementation of harmonized and transparent risk assessment methodologies.

Dr Quincke referred to the mandate of the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme and its CAC to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in the food trade. In addition, it was important to point out that protection of food was considered as one of the essential actions to be taken by governments to improve nutrition and was explicitly incorporated into the World Declaration and Plan of Action for Nutrition adopted by the International Conference on Nutrition in Rome in 1992. In this regard, FAO and WHO were specifically requested to encourage involvement of all countries, in particular developing countries, in Codex activities.

The health component of the Codex Alimentarius has become even more important since the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Final Act included the "Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures" (SPS Agreement), which specifically cites Codex standards, guidelines and recommendations as reflecting international consensus regarding the requirements to protect human health from foodborne hazards. In addition, WTO's "Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade" (TBT Agreement) has implications for the international food trade and Codex as well.

Dr Quincke noted that the work of this Consultation will lay the foundation for assuring that scientifically sound and consistent methodologies for risk assessment will be employed by CAC and its subsidiary and advisory bodies. The recommendations of the Consultation may be instrumental in assuring that the health-related aspects of Codex standards, guidelines and recommendations have the widest possible acceptance by governments, industry and trade, and, most importantly, consumers.

Welcoming those attending on behalf of the Director-General of FAO, Mr A.J. Whitehead, Senior Officer in the Food Quality and Standards Service of FAO's Food and Nutrition Division, expressed appreciation to all for their attendance and emphasized the importance of the task that lay ahead of the Consultation. He pointed out that the involvement of FAO in food quality and safety standards issues was wider than its work in the CAC alone, and included working with developing countries in the development and strengthening of food control programmes covering all aspects of food quality, including safety. Noting that there was as yet no generally accepted model that might be applied to food standards work, Mr Whitehead challenged those participating in the Consultation to work together during the week ahead to achieve this important goal.

The Consultation agreed that Dr Sanford Miller should be Chairman, Dr Steven Hathaway should be Vice-Chairman and Dr Stuart Slorach should be Rapporteur.

The deliberations of the Consultation were based on a number of working papers (Annex 2). Unfortunately, Dr Joseph Rodericks was unable to attend the Consultation, but his paper was considered during the Consultation.

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