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The role of Codex and food safety in the 2021 Food Systems Summit


In 2021 a Food Systems Summit led by UN Secretary-General António Guterres will be part of what is known as the ‘Decade of Action’ to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Speaking at the Executive Committee session on 14 January 2021, Jamie Morrison, Director of the Food Systems Programme in FAO, told delegates how the Summit aims “to generate a much better understanding amongst the public as to the importance of the choices they make” regarding the purchase, consumption and disposal of food, and the consequences of those choices.

Good possibilities to connect the work of Codex.

The current focus in the run up to the Summit is on making the right decisions that can transform food systems; actions that will have wide impact and be sustainable. Some of the discussions taking place are specifically linked to food safety with FAO and WHO leading work on ‘safe and nutritious food’ and ‘sustainable and healthy consumption’ respectively. “I think there are good possibilities to connect the work of Codex into this thinking,” said Morrison, noting the critical importance of the regulatory framework within which these actions take place. “We can't have solutions … without thinking through the relationship to the regulatory framework”.

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Jamie Morrison, FAO (top row second left) and Francesco Branca, WHO (top row second right) at Codex Executive Committee, 14 January 2021

If Members can encourage their agencies responsible for food safety to become involved in the discussions already underway, they will have a chance to raise the food safety profile in the plans that will be developed to implement a reform of food systems. Reforms that are ‘good for people and planet’.

A unique opportunity.

Francesco Branca, WHO Director of Nutrition and Food Safety, said “the Food System Summit is going to be a unique opportunity. It has a very high level of ambition. The level of ambition is to actually change food systems”. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the limitations and this Summit is about “game-changing solutions” also in the way specialized agencies and all those involved will coordinate with each other to identify solutions.

“The role of WHO will, of course, be to highlight the health issues,” from unhealthy diets, the burden of foodborne disease or the health of food workers - and food security, which is still affecting over 800 million people, Branca explained. We will also examine the impact of food systems on the environment “through the excessive use, beyond Codex standards, of pesticides or also the use of antibiotics that in certain contexts might lead to [antimicrobial] resistance”.

The focus is on whatever can empower consumers to make informed, healthy, safe and sustainable choices and on the solutions to improve availability and access to healthy, safe and sustainable food.

Photo credit (c) 123RF 

Learn more

Visit the UN Food Systems Summit web site