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Codex meeting passes new international standards for food safety

Several highly publicized issues regarding food safety topped the agenda of a recent meeting of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a joint body of FAO and the World Health Organization, held in Rome from 28 June to 3 July.

Food labelling standards keep customers informed

The highest international body on global food standards, the Codex Alimenarius Commission establishes international guidelines and recommendations to enhance food quality and safety and facilitate international trade in food.

In response to the recent European crisis over dioxin-contaminated animal products, the Commission has set up an intergovernmental task force to accelerate the adoption of a Draft Code of Practice on Good Animal Feeding. It also approved the establishment of an intergovernmental task force to speed up the elaboration of guidelines and standards for foods derived from biotechnology. It is hoped that these will be adopted by 2003. A third task force to revise and update standards for fruit juices was also proposed.

New international guidelines for the production, processing, labelling and marketing of organic food were also passed by the Commission. A rapidly growing food sector, organic food sales in the European Community and United States combined reached nearly US$9 billion in 1997. The new guidelines clearly define the nature of organic food production and prevent claims that could mislead consumers about the quality of the product or the way it was produced.

Amendments were also made to the general standards for labelling prepackaged foods that may trigger allergic reactions, such as peanuts.

John Lupien, Director of FAO's Food and Nutrition Division, said the Codex system is key to protecting the health of consumers, ensuring fair trade practices and harmonizing international food standards

"Much more needs to be done to improve food quality in a world where international food trade, currently valued at more than US$500 billion annually, is growing rapidly," Mr Lupien added.

9 July 1999

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