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Codex nutrition committee - a common goal to combat malnutrition and obesity

In the week that WHO urges action to increase physical activity levels in girls and boys aged 11 to 17 years and reports that more than 80% of school-going adolescents globally do not meet current recommendations of at least one hour of physical activity per day, it is timely that the Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses (CCNFSDU) is meeting from 24 to 29 November in Duesseldorf, Germany. Purwiyatno Hariyadi, Indonesia, Vice-chairperson of the Codex Alimentarius Commission said: “The current triple burden of undernutrition; overweight and obesity, and micronutrient deficiencies is the main problem faced by many parts of the world”. This situation prevents many people from living healthy, active and productive lives.  “By setting standards concerning the nutritional aspects of all foods, CCNFSDU, can play a significant role to help solve this problem”, he said. CCNFSDU41 - co-chairs

Anja Broenstrup and Hilke Thordsen

With as many as 400 delegates present, CCNFSDU continues to be one of the best attended Codex meetings. The topics of CCNFSDU are of particular importance when it comes to protecting consumers and to fighting against malnutrition worldwide. “Health protection and the removal of barriers to trade are more important than ever in our globalized world”, said Hilke Thordsen, who co-chairs the committee together with chairperson Anja Broenstrup, both from the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture who host the committee. One of the biggest items on the agenda is the work on follow-up formula attracting interest from both members and observer organizations.

Looking forward to significant progress.

Jenny Reid, from New Zealand, who have been leading the work on the review of follow up formula for a number of years said they were looking forward to significant progress at this meeting.  “We know that many of the issues up for discussion on this agenda item are contentious and we look forward to effective compromise while retaining sound scientific principles underpinning the decisions”, she said. “Malaysia hopes CCNFSDU can make significant progress on important issues including the review of follow-up formula standard. We believe Codex standard are pertinent in harmonizing international food trade practices and avoiding unnecessary trade barriers”, said Ruhana binti Abdul Latif, from the Ministry of Health. “The market shows that we really need guidance for a nutritionally meaningful composition of these products. It is our responsibility to develop this standard further and to ensure that products are composed based on science”, said Thordsen. Maria Xipsiti, Nutrition Officer FAO said: “The work of CCNFSDU is critical for revising existing standards and guidelines with a view to aligning them with new scientific findings and other developments. I am looking forward to fruitful discussions by the committee on follow up formula and other special foods”. CCNFSDU41 - follow-up formula

The committee will discuss follow-up formula and other special foods

Protecting the age group that represents our future.

The meeting is “an opportunity to discuss new data on nutrition and dietary aspects in particular”, said Henda Souilamas, from the Ministry of Commerce in Algeria. The standards the committee develops are for the age group that “represents the future of our world”, she said. The interest of Kazakhstan to participate at the CCNFSDU meetings is primarily linked to non-communicable diseases (NCDs). “One of the main directions of the healthcare strategy of Kazakhstan is the reduction of morbidity and mortality rates caused by NCDs”, said Zhanar Tolysbayeva, a nutrition expert.

Science should take precedence.

Gilbert Tshitaudzi, South Africa expects the decisions made by the committee to be in the interest of public health, especially the most vulnerable groups such as infants and young children. “Science should take precedence when decisions are made to ensure that Member States feel confident about the Codex processes”, he said. “I expect that all the items on the agenda will be discussed based on science. I also expect that consensus will be built and standards developed on time”, said Atul Upadhyay from Nepal.

Consumer groups and private sector interest in the committee is high

Over 30 observer organizations will take part in CCNFSDU representing both the private sector and consumer groups with interest on many agenda items extremely high. "We expect CCNFSDU41 to make important steps in providing the necessary guidance to help governments, businesses and other stakeholders enhance nutrition and facilitate international food trade”, said Dirk Jacobs from FoodDrinkEurope. Jean Christophe Kremer represents the International Special Dietary Foods Industry, a longstanding observer at CCNFSDU. “We expect a challenging agenda and hope that the Dusseldorf meeting will enable all delegates and observers to find compromise”, he said. The American Oil Chemists' Society is particularly interested in agenda items that relate to oilseeds and other crop proteins. “We anticipate there will be discussions at the meeting that may impact our stakeholders”, said Barry Tulk. The European Network of Childbirth Associations and the International Baby Food Action Network are always active participants in CCNFSDU. “We hope that child and planetary health is put before commercial concerns and that the deceptive cross-promotion on labelling of products for young children will not be permitted”, said Patti Rundall. The meeting will also discuss a proposal on probiotic guidelines for use in foods and dietary supplements, a topic first raised by the International Probiotics Association (IPA) at the committee in 2017. “Codex Standards reflect a best practices scenario globally. We look forward to this year’s CCNFSDU41 to begin work on the proposed harmonization initiative for Codex probiotic guidelines”, said George Paraskevakos, Executive Director of IPA.

Future priorities

The host secretariat, Germany will introduce a paper on the development of a mechanism to prioritize new work proposals for its agenda. Dealing with issues related to the diet of vulnerable population groups means topics in the committee are high on political agendas and under increasing public scrutiny. "Over many years CCNFSDU has shown it can consistently create global reference points. Discussion on prioritization will be key to ensuring that its work remains relevant and sustainable”, said a representative of the International Alliance of Dietary Food Supplement Associations.

Ensuring a successful meeting

Helena S. Alcaraz from the Philippines hopes the chairperson continues to give equal opportunity to each delegate to speak whenever possible. “I also hope that the delegates will actively participate in the discussions so we can come up with true consensus on all critical agenda items”, she said. “We should bear in mind that we all strive for a common goal: to combat malnutrition and obesity, especially in vulnerable population groups” said Thordsen. It is important the committee does not lose sight of this common goal. What matters “is the will to compromise and to find consensus on the basis of mutual understanding”.  

Read more

Follow the meeting agenda on the Codex web site.