Page tools
codexalimentarius > About Codex

About Codex Alimentarius

C O D E X  A L I M E N T A R I U S  is about safe, good food for everyone - everywhere.

International food trade has existed for thousands of years but until not too long ago food was mainly produced, sold and consumed locally. Over the last century the amount of food traded internationally has grown exponentially, and a quantity and variety of food never before possible travels the globe today.

 

International Food Standards

The C O D E X  A L I M E N T A R I U S international food standards, guidelines and codes of practice contribute to the safety, quality and fairness of this international food trade. Consumers can trust the safety and quality of the food products they buy and importers can trust that the food they ordered will be in accordance with their specifications.

Protecting Consumer Health

Public concerns about food safety issues often place Codex at the centre of global debates. Veterinary drugs, pesticides, food additives and contaminants are some of the issues discussed in Codex meetings. Codex standards are based on sound science provided by independent international risk assessment bodies or ad-hoc consultations organized by FAO and WHO. 

While being recommendations for voluntary application by members, Codex standards serve in many cases as a basis for national legislation.

Removing Barriers to Trade

The reference made to Codex food safety standards in the World Trade Organization's Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary measures (SPS Agreement) means that Codex has far reaching implications for resolving trade disputes. WTO members that wish to apply stricter food safety measures than those set by Codex may be required to justify these measures scientifically.

Since its foundation in 1963, the Codex system has evolved in an open, transparent and inclusive way to meet emerging challenges. International food trade is a 200 billion dollar a year industry, with billions of tonnes of food produced, marketed and transported.

General Principles of the Codex Alimentarius

Purpose of the Codex Alimentarius

Purpose of the Codex Alimentarius

The Codex Alimentarius is a collection of internationally adopted food standards and related texts presented in a uniform manner. These food standards and related texts aim at protecting consumers’ health and ensuring fair practices in the food trade. The publication of the Codex Alimentarius is intended to guide and promote the elaboration and establishment of definitions and requirements for foods to assist in their harmonization and in doing so to facilitate international trade.

Scope of the Codex Alimentarius

Scope of the Codex Alimentarius

The Codex Alimentarius includes standards for all the principle 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 includes provisions in respect of food hygiene, food additives, residues of pesticides and veterinary drugs, contaminants, labelling and presentation, methods of analysis and sampling, and import and export inspection and certification.

Nature of Codex Standards

Nature of Codex Standards

Codex standards and related texts are not a substitute for, or alternative to national legislation. Every country’s laws and administrative procedures contain provisions with which it is essential to comply.

Codex standards and related texts contain requirements for food aimed at ensuring for the consumer a safe, wholesome food product free from adulteration, correctly labelled and presented. A Codex standard for any food or foods should be drawn up in accordance with the Format for Codex Commodity Standards and contain, as appropriate, the sections listed therein.

Revision of Codex Standards

Revision of Codex Standards

The Codex Alimentarius Commission and its subsidiary bodies are committed to revision as necessary of Codex standards and related texts to ensure that they are consistent with and reflect current scientific knowledge and other relevant information.

When required, a standard or related text shall be revised or removed in accordance with the Procedures for the Elaboration of Codex Standards and Related Texts.

Each member of the Codex Alimentarius Commission is responsible for identifying, and presenting to the appropriate committee, any new scientific and other relevant information which may warrant revision of any existing Codex standards or related texts.