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Codex India talks food safety and trade concerns with the Secretariat


Tom Heilandt, Codex Secretary, welcomed the CEO of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), Pawan Agarwal and other representatives of FSSAI to the Codex Secretariat at FAO in Rome last week for a round table discussion on broad themes of mutual interest.

Codex India is hosted by FSSAI and has lead the Codex Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs (CCSCH) since its inception in 2014. India is also the current regional coordinator for the Asia region and extremely active across all areas in Codex.

AMR update

India was keen to hear first-hand from technical officers about progress in the Codex antimicrobial resistance taskforce (TFAMR), and how India will be able to improve monitoring and surveillance and benefit from the guidelines currently being developed. Gracia Brisco, Food Standards Officer, emphasised the importance of setting targets on AMR that countries would be able to implement within a reasonable timeframe.

Regional coordination

India has a busy calendar of regional activities - having just run an extremely successful Codex web tools training in New Delhi, now organizing a workshop on the new Codex Strategic Plan (2020-2025) in Beijing in early November 2018 and already looking ahead to the next session of the FAO/WHO Coordinating Committee (RCC) in 2019 to be held in Kerala.

The regional committees play an important role in helping orient Codex strategically and both India and the Secretariat expressed the desire for the 2019 meeting to tackle core issues. “We will think deeply about the agenda and bring about the desired change”, said Agarwal. He also expressed the need for Codex work on food safety and the capacity development initiatives run by FAO and WHO to gain greater visibility in India in both the short and long term. In response Catherine Bessy, Food Safety and Quality Officer, highlighted the range of support available to countries from FAO and WHO including strengthening national food control regulatory frameworks and enhancing member country participation in Codex.

Food safety in India

Agarwal also presented food safety initiatives underway across the country which are part of an “Eat Right India” campaign, as noncommunicable diseases begin to overtake infectious diseases, and questioned how a stronger focus on nutritional outcomes could be integrated into standard setting. “Codex can play an extremely important role and not just in setting standards”, he said, emphasising the role of consumers in demanding safe food.

Driving change in India on nutrition and matters such as salt and sugar in food is about “voluntary commitments from the whole industry” said Agarwal. “Standards are important”, he added but stressed that it is the codes and guidelines on matters such as food hygiene that can make a real difference. “The mega kitchens in India are all in places of worship”, he said and this as well as challenges posed by e-commerce is where regulators are also having to devote their energy.

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