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Codex plans for a virtual Commission


Delegations from 85 Codex Members and 40 Observers met up virtually on 28th July 2020 in what may come to be seen as a trial run for the 43rd session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission planned for September 2020. Following on from the successful Executive Committee virtual meeting, the Codex community is now beginning to understand what will be needed, how to prepare and what to expect from a virtual Commission.

“The COVID-19 pandemic unquestionably presents an era-defining challenge to public health and the global economy”, said Guilherme da Costa, Brazil, Chairperson of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. To guarantee food security countries need to maintain a fully functioning food supply system where food is safe and can be traded. “The Codex Alimentarius is therefore paramount in achieving this combination — it is not possible to think of food security without food safety and trade”, he said.

This first virtual encounter with large numbers online experimented alternating short, targeted interventions with audience interactions, using webinar tools such as question & answer and online chat. WHO and FAO gave an overview of how their scientific advice programme is adapting to the current challenges in an effort to continue to ensure the provision of timely scientific advice to underpin Codex Standards. Tom Heilandt Codex Secretary hosted a panel discussion on the opportunities and challenges of virtual working.

Continue Codex work on standards – learn, adapt and invent

“It was sad for us to cancel so many Codex sessions this year, but we quickly realized that in order to get through this we have to do what humans are best at: learn, adapt and invent! Many meetings took place virtually that we would not have held without the crisis. The recent Executive Committee session was a testing ground for the way ahead if Codex is to continue to establish standards during the pandemic. It was successful and we now prepare the first virtual Commission session to adopt the standards submitted by those committees that were able to meet physically in the second half of 2019”, said Heilandt. Christiane Wolff, Counsellor, World Trade Organization also shared her experience with managing virtual participation at the recent WTO SPS committee meeting. ”You really need to invest in making it very clear how everything is going to work, to build the trust of Members and so make progress virtually” reflected Wolff.

To hold a virtual Commission, FAO and WHO have established that two-thirds of the Codex membership (126 countries) must be in agreement. Verification is currently underway and the results will be announced by the end of August.

View the webinar: Progressing Codex standards during a global pandemic


Learn more

Providing the scientific basis for Codex Alimentarius – adjusting to current circumstances

CCEXEC Sub-committee on Codex and the pandemic - challenges and opportunities

Codex Alimentarius Commission