Purpose of the Codex Alimentarius
1. The Codex Alimentarius is a collection of internationally adopted food standards presented in a uniform manner. These food standards aim at protecting consumers' health and ensuring fair practices in the food trade. Their publication is intended to guide and promote the elaboration and establishment of definitions and requirements for foods, to assist in their harmonization and in so doing to facilitate international trade.
Scope of the Codex Alimentarius
2. The Codex Alimentarius is to include standards for all the principal foods, whether processed, semi-processed or raw, for distribution to the consumer. Materials for further processing into foods should be included to the extent necessary to achieve the purposes of the Codex Alimentarius as defined. The Codex Alimentarius is to include provisions in respect of food hygiene, food additives, pesticide residues, contaminants, labelling and presentation, methods of analysis and sampling.
Nature of Codex Standards
3. Codex standards contain requirements for food aimed at ensuring for the consumer a sound, wholesome food product free from adulteration, correctly labelled and presented. In particular a Codex standard for a given food product lays down the special requirements for that product, it being understood that the general provisions contained in the Codex Alimentarius shall apply except to the extent otherwise expressly provided for in a specific standard.
A Codex standard should, therefore, for any food or foods:
incorporate by reference the applicable hygiene, labelling, methods of analysis and other general provisions adopted by the Commission, and
specify in whole or in part the following criteria, as appropriate:
Product designation, definition and composition
These should describe and define the food (including its scientific name when necessary) and cover compositional requirements which may include quality criteria.
These should include such factors as specific sanitary and other protective measures and safeguards to assure a sound, wholesome and marketable product.
Weight and measure requirements,
such as fill of container, weight, measure or count of units based on appropriate method or criterium.
These should include specific requirements for labelling and presentation.
Sampling, testing and analytical methods
These should cover specific sampling, testing and analytical procedures.
Acceptance of Codex Standards
4.A. A Codex standard may be accepted by a country in accordance with its established legal and administrative procedures in respect of distribution of the product concerned, whether imported or home-produced, within its territorial jurisdiction in the following ways:
Full acceptance means that the country concerned will ensure that a product to which the standard applies will be permitted to be distributed freely within its territorial jurisdiction under the name and description laid down in the standard, provided that it complies with all the relevant requirements of the standard. The country will also ensure that products not complying with the standard will not be permitted to be distributed under the name and description laid down in the standard. It also means that the distribution of any sound products conforming with the standard will not be hindered by any legal or administrative provisions in the country concerned relating to the health of the consumer or to other food standard matters except for considerations of human, plant or animal health which are not specifically dealt with in the standard.
Acceptance with a declaration of more stringent or supplementary requirements
Acceptance with a declaration of more stringent or supplementary requirements means that a country will include in its acceptance full details of all its requirements which it considers to be more stringent than or supplementary to those included in the standard concerned, it being understood that it accepts all the other provisions of the standard in accordance with the provisions of paragraph 4 A(i).
Target acceptance means that the country concerned indicates its intention to accept the standard after a stated number of years and will meanwhile not hinder within its territorial jurisdiction the distribution of any sound products conforming with the standard by any legal or administrative provisions relating to the health of the consumer or to other food standard matters except for considerations of human, plant or animal health which are not specifically dealt with in the standard.
Acceptance with Minor Deviations 1
Acceptance with minor deviations means that the country concerned gives full acceptance to the standard concerned with the exception of minor deviations which are accepted as such by the Codex Alimentarius Commission and which are not more stringent or supplementary requirements. The country concerned will include in its acceptance a statement of such deviations, the reasons for them, and also indicate:
whether products fully conforming to the standard may be distributed freely within its territorial jurisdiction in accordance with paragraph 4 A(i).
whether it expects to be able to give full acceptance to the standard and, if so, when.
B. A country which considers that it cannot accept the standard in any of the ways mentioned above should indicate:
whether products conforming to the standard may be distributed freely within its territorial jurisdiction;
in what ways its present or proposed requirements differ from the standard, and, if possible, the reasons for these differences.
A country which accepts a Codex standard according to one of the provisions of 4A is responsible for the uniform and impartial application of the provisions of the standard as they apply to all home-produced and imported products distributed within its territorial jurisdiction. In addition, the country should be prepared to offer advice and guidance to exporters and processors of products for export to promote understanding of and compliance with the requirements of importing countries which have accepted a Codex standard according to one of the provisions of 4A.
Where, in an importing country, a product claimed to be in compliance with a Codex standard is found not to be in compliance with that standard, whether in respect of the label accompanying the product or otherwise, the importing country should inform the competent authorities in the exporting country of all the relevant facts and in particular the details of the origin of the product in question (name and address of the exporter), if it is thought that a person in the exporting country is responsible for such non-compliance.
The Codex Alimentarius Commission at its Fifth Session decided that the section of the Acceptance of Codex Standards entitled “Acceptance with Minor Deviations” should be sent to governments for comments. This section would then be re-examined in the light of government comments by the Third Session of the Codex Committee on General Principles. Please see paragraphs 19–21 of the Report of the Fifth Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (ALINORM 68/35)