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New Codex chairperson passionate about food labelling


Interview with Kathy Twardek, the new chairperson of the Codex Committee on Food Labelling, ahead of the 45th session which gets underway in Ottawa, Canada on 13 May 2019.

Kathy, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. To start, tell us where you work?

I have been working for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) since it was established in 1997, and for a few years before that in various departments whose focus was on consumer affairs and food inspection.

Why did you become interested in food safety?

Food composition and labelling have been a passion for me and I have been lucky to have had a number of different positions and functions in this area, from auditing for fraudulent activities and food safety hazards to directing the design of programs and the drafting of regulations for consumer protection.

How long have you been involved in Codex?

Since 2003 I have been significantly involved in Codex Alimentarius work, as former head delegate to CCFO, delegate to CCMMP, and head of delegation for CCFL. 

How does Codex fit into the work of CFIA?

Codex is very important to the work of the CFIA.  Canada is very active in the various committees of Codex with the aim of advancing the work of Codex.  Once standards and texts are adopted, we then have an international reference to refer to, whether it be for food safety or consumer protection. 

An example?

For example, we take Codex texts into consideration when we update our regulations, and the Safe Food for Canadians Regulations is a good example, where our preventative control plans were based on the General Principles of Food Hygiene. Even more recently we have referred to the newly adopted Codex amendments to the GSLPF to propose changes to our national date marking requirements.

What do you see as highlights on the CCFL45 agenda?

I am very excited about the CCFL45 agenda.  We have two items in the step process – the labelling of non-retail containers and the guidelines for front of pack labelling – that show some of the future direction of labelling, such as providing labelling information through other means than just the label and setting guidelines for countries to be able to develop labelling schemes to increase accessibility and awareness. 

And looking ahead?

The six discussion papers also promise to bring interesting discussion, as we further explore use of technology, online sale of food, and other emerging issues.

How can we ensure that food labelling information is meaningful to consumers and not confusing?

I think that is a real and constant challenge for regulators as well as for industry who provide the information. Perhaps the simplest way to answer this is to think about the consumer and what the consumer needs to be able to make an informed purchasing decision.  And what additional information, perhaps provided in other forms like educational material, can help bring further awareness. 

Regulators have a role but what about consumers themselves?

We should not forget that they play a key role here, too. Consumers letting industry and governments know what information is useful and how they would like to receive it will go a long way in making sure that consumers are presented with accurate and meaningful information.

What advice would you give to first time delegates at CCFL45?

To first time delegates I would say that it is an honour to be identified as a representative of your country at Codex and that it is completely ok to be nervous, very likely everyone in the room is a bit nervous! 

How can they contribute?

I would encourage new delegates to share their positions, contribute to the discussion, and to listen to the interventions of others.  That way, when we are looking for creative solutions that will help us achieve consensus, we can contribute those ideas that take into account the perspectives of others and meet the objectives we are striving for, safe food and fair practices in food trade. 

Any more advice?

They should also take the opportunity to meet and talk to other delegates at breaks and lunch, it is a wonderful chance to learn more about the world.


Read more

CCFL45 meeting page

Canadian Food Inspection Agency

Food labelling at FAO

Food safety at WHO

Photo Credit (c) Codex/Bob Scott