It is both an honour and a pleasure for me to express on behalf of all the members of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, our thanks to you for having been kind enough to address this Seventeenth Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission.
I join you, Sir, in extending a warm welcome to all participants at this session, particularly those who are attending for the first time.
As you have pointed out, the Codex Alimentarius Commission is about to complete 25 years of service to its member governments and to its sponsoring organizations, FAO and WHO. The Commission is not planning any special events to mark this unique occasion. There is no intention to look back or to congratulate ourselves on our work over the past quartercentury. Instead, the Commission is planning, at this Session, to examine its future. We are fortunate, indeed, to have the advice of FAO's Council, its Committee on Agriculture, and the Resolution of the 1987 World Health Assembly to guide us. It is heartening that the Commission's work received such warm overall approval in these important forums, and I am sure that the Commission will wish to note and take action on those areas where a concern was raised.
Like you, Sir, I am concerned that the formal acceptance of Codex standards and other important recommendations have not been forthcoming. The Commission has prepared more that 200 standards, and nearly 4 000 recommendations for maximum levels of pesticide residues in foods. These standards have been sent to governments by the Directors-General of our parent Organizations, with the recommendation that Governments accept them in accordance with the Procedures established by the Commission. The Commission has, on several occasions, amended its acceptance procedure to make it easier for countries to announce formally their committment to the Codex Alimentarius. We have had some success. I believe that we will see a major change in the attitudes of many of those countries which have devoted much time, effort and money in contributing to the elaboration of the Standards, but which, until now, have been unable to indicate formally the acceptance which completes the picture. I shall constantly remind this session of the Commission of your expressed concern in this area, and hope that countries will pursue the matter of Codex acceptances with even greater enthusiasm in the next two years.
I am also pleased, Mr. Director-General, that you have called our attention to the importance of the Codex Alimentarius to the developing countries. Especially, Sir, how the work of the Codex is implemented through national food control programmes as part of overall development strategies and national plans for achieving food security. In reply I would also like to emphasize how important the developing countries are, and have been, to the work of this Commission. The Regional Coordinating Committees for Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean have been responsible for making significant changes to the Commission's programme of work, and the approaches it has taken to its work. It was, for example, the Regional Coordinating Committee for Africa which initated work in the Commission in relation to cereals, pulses and legumes.
I was interested to hear your remarks, Sir, concerning the need to develop the infrastructure of national food control programmes in many countries if the Commission's work is to have its full effect in promoting food security, trade and health. I know that this is a topic which is constantly raised at meetings of the Regional Coordinating Committees. Many countries do not have adequate or effective coordination of food quality and safety activities in ministries of agriculture, health, commerce and industry, or between these ministries and food producers, processors and marketing personnel. The contributory role of educational institutions for training professionals, technicians, and educating consumers is often neglected. I am aware of FAO's highly effective programmes to assist developing countries in this regard, and I am pleased that they are being brought to the attention of the Commission for information, and in connection with our reflections on the paper prepared for the Committee on Agriculture on the “Role of Food Quality and Standards in Food Security, Trade and Health”.
The Regional Coordinating Committees have become essential to the Commission's work, and I have taken particular care to attend as many of their meetings as I could during my period of office as Chairman of this Commission. This has allowed me to have a better appreciation of the socio-economic impact of the Commission's work. More importantly, it has provided the opportunity for many delegates to take up some of their problems directly with me, and has encouraged them to become more active in the Commission's work as a result. I am personally pleased to see the increased attendance by delegates from developing countries at all of our sessions, and I shall continue to encourage their active participation in our discussions.
Sir, it would be inappropriate not to raise some of the problems which will affect the work of the Commission over the coming years. Our thoughts immediately turn towards the financial problems facing FAO and WHO at the present time, and it is comforting to have your assurance that no reduction in FAO's contribution to the Food Standards Programme is being contemplated. I personally agree with you that much more emphasis has to be paid to the publication of final Codex texts and summaries of acceptances. Not only is this an obligation of the Commission in accordance with its Statutes, I see it as one of the ways of encouraging more acceptances. The Executive Committee of the Commission has already discussed the need to present the work of the Commission in a more readable and attractive form. An information booklet has been prepared, and I understand that the special audio-visual presentation which was prepared for the Committee on Agriculture will be shown to the Commission this week. Such publications cost money and the re-issuing of the Codex Alimentarius in a new format will cost even more. I shall constantly be drawing this to the attention of the Commission as we discuss various committee reports, and will encourage the Chairmen of the Committees and the Secretariat to produce more concise Committee working documents and reports to enable meeting costs of publishing the Codex Alimentarius.
Another problem which we face, Mr. Director-General, is that of environmental contaminants, and how to deal with them. The accident at Chernobyl clearly drew our attention to this important aspect of our programme of work. I am certain that all of the members appreciate your prompt action following the accident in convening the FAO Expert Consultation on Recommended Limits for Radionuclides in Foods and in disseminating the report quickly to all member countries and international organizations. I am looking forward to hear of the status of the report in member countries and its impact in inter- national trade. The Commission, Sir, will be considering the subject of environmental contaminants within the framework of its general discussion of the future direction of its programme of work. Regardless of the procedures which the Commission may decide upon for dealing with contaminants within its structure, I am certain that the subject will remain a priority one for many years to come, affecting as it does, aspects of trade, food security and health at all levels, in all countries.
Mr. Director-General, the delegations to the Codex Commission itself reflect the multi-sectorial nature of the Commission's work; some come from Ministries of Agriculture, others from Health, or Commerce, or Industry. Different traditions, and different legal structures mean that the principle authorities responsible for food control and standards can be found in any one of these Ministries. Nevertheless, wherever this responsibility is located at the national level, governments look to the Codex Alimentarius Commission for advice when it comes to food standards. At an international level the Commission has always had the responsibility of promoting the coordination of all food standards work undertaken by international governmental and non-governmental organizations. This one aspect of the Commission's work has been most successful. The Commission is recognized, as you have said yourself, as THE international body responsible for food standards. This special status has also been recognized by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. The number of international organizations which attend sessions of the Commission and its subsidiary bodies shows how much this rôle is appreciated, and how important it is that the Codex Commission is seen to be the central focal point for all food standards work. I very much appreciate the strong support which you have given to us in this regard.
Mr. Director-General, I should like to join you in expressing sincere thanks to those member governments who so generously host sessions of Codex Committees. This is not a light burden, and is a tangible measure of the strong support which the Commission enjoys in countries around the world. I should also like to thank your staff, Sir, who have put many hours of work into the preparation of this meeting.
Thank you Sir for your interest in and support our work.
|FORTIETH WORLD HEALTH ASSEMBLY||WHA40.20|
|Agenda item 32.2||15 May 1987|
THE CODEX ALIMENTARIUS COMMISSION
The Fortieth World Health Assembly,
Having studied the first report by the Director-General on the Codex Alimentarius Commission1 and the discussions during the seventy-ninth session of the Executive Board;
Recognizing the role of the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme and the Codex Alimentarius Commission for the promotion of food safety and the facilitation of international trade;
Recognizing the essential role of sufficient and safe food for health promotion and disease prevention;
Aware of the benefits to all countries to be derived from the work of the Codex Alimentarius Commission;
CALLS UPON Member States:
to participate actively, particularly their health sectors, in the work of the Codex Alimentarius Commission and its committees;
to make all appropriate efforts to adopt Codex standards, and to fully utilize the recommendations of the Commission for the promotion of food safety and the international food trade;
to promote active collaboration on the part of both the public and private sectors and nongovernmental organizations in national Codex work;
REQUESTS the Director-General:
to continue to collaborate with FAO in support of the Commission;
to maintain appropriate technical and financial support of the Commission;
to collaborate with Member States in strengthening their infrastructure for food safety in order to facilitate the implementation of Codex standards and recommendations;
RECOMMENDS the Codex Alimentarius Commission:
to give priority consideration to the work of the general subject committees and the regional coordinating committees, which are responsible for food safety and consumer information;
to encourage Member States to fully utilize and implement Codex standards and recommendations;
to invite Member States which have not yet joined the Commission to do so without delay.
Twelfth plenary meeting, 15 May 1987
1 Document EB79/1987/REC/1, Annex 12.