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Codex Secretary Tom Heilandt addresses the 85th OIE General Session


May 23rd 2017 Paris. World Organisation for Animal Health  Speech: Tom Heilandt 

The actual speech as it was delivered may deviate from the speech texts made available on this website.

Chers déléguées, délégués - Mesdames et Messieurs Bonjour !  Je voudrais premièrement remercier l'OIE et sa directrice générale – Dr Monique Éloit pour cette invitation et la possibilité de m'adresser à vous ici aujourd'hui. Le thème de la discussion qui suivra ces interventions individuelles est très pertinent. Toute normalisation est inutile si les normes ne sont pas appliquées. Je parle ici au nom de la Commission du Codex Alimentarius – l’organisme international créé en 1963 par la FAO et l’OMS pour établir des normes alimentaires.  Je continuerai en anglais. Paris, Codex OIE85 The main mandate of Codex is to set and publish standards to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in the food trade. Our secondary mandate is to promote coordination of all food standards work undertaken by international governmental and non-governmental organizations.

OIE and Codex are linked on 4 levels.

Level one: Setting international standards 

We work driven by members - we work inclusively and transparently and strive to reach consensus on complex issues. We face the same challenges in this - some topics are difficult - how to go forward when consensus is not reachable? How to best involve all members? Strong participation will lead to standards that will be applied. Codex has developed an online commenting system together with IPPC and we are thinking of other tools to allow members to be more involved. We share two staff members with IPPC. We can consider also seconding staff to OIE and vice versa. We can learn a lot from each other. We are smallish organizations and our members have chosen to work through us in our specific mandates because we are efficient and we can continuously improve and adapt. 

Level two: Content 

Food production can impact food safety and quality - necessarily OIE and Codex have an overlap and common interests. Topics like animal feeding and antimicrobial resistance and others spread across organizations and mandates. With good coordination, our results are complementary and we offer our users clear guidance that can be applied. The OIE Working Group on Animal Production Food Safety has helped a lot in establishing this good coordination and I agree that this - is now – and has to be - part of our fabric. There is also a need for coordination at the national level – ideally delegations coming to OIE, Codex, FAO and WHO would express themselves in a coherent way. This will avoid misunderstandings and duplication of work.  

Level Three: Sisters

1924 - 1951 – 1963 - Rhapsody in Blue - An American in Paris – The Beatles first album Please, Please Me. Three important years in music and in the international world. OIE – IPPC and Codex are the three sisters in the WTO SPS agreement. Codex work on food safety was recognized explicitly but our standards may also be used as a reference in the WTO TBT for all our other work that is not SPS. Together with our two older sisters we ensure safety and fairness in the multilateral trading system.  This offers excellent opportunities to discuss with members the implementation of our standards and in addition the STDF offers opportunities for members to implement projects. The status also comes with an obligation for coordination and to set the standards needed in international trade in a timely manner.

Level Four: The world at large

Our mandates put us in the center of many and sometimes difficult debates because animal health, plant health and food safety and quality are influenced by many parameters and in turn influence the environment and the way we live on the planet. Good communication is essential to get our messages across - harmonization and standardization are the origins of all creativity and advances on this planet - if done the right way - together. The best we can do is to offer to our members a coherent and complete package of guidance. Something that is too good not to apply because applying our standards improves the world and leads us closer to achieving the UN-SDGs that we are all working towards. Photo credit © OIE/I.Zezima