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New standards adopted at CAC42


Over 100 countries have agreed a range of standards that will now be published as part of the Codex Alimentarius.

New work also filling the future Codex agenda


The Standard for dried or dehydrated garlic is the result of the Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs decision in 2017 to elaborate groups of standards by plant parts (as used in the spices and culinary herbs industry) to ease the development of quality specifications by eliminating duplication and thereby facilitating the work of competent authorities and regulators.

Standards for oils

Almond Oil, Flaxseed Oil, Hazelnut Oil, Pistachio Oil, and Walnut Oil are some of the oldest types of edible oil consumed by humankind and have been traditionally produced and consumed in Middle Eastern countries, Africa, Europe and South America. The oils are sought as healthy options due to their essential fatty acid and micronutrient content. This standard sets quality and as well as food safety criteria for these edible oils to facilitate international trade.

Palm oil with a higher content of Oleic acid (OXG) will be added to the Standard for Named Vegetable Oils (CXS 210-1999). Several countries have developed hybrids between the American oil palm, Elaeis oleifera, and the African oil palm, Elaeis guineensis. The palm oil extracted from the fruits of these hybrids has a higher oleic acid content recognized for its nutritional benefits. Over the last 20 years, global production and consumption of vegetable oils has increased significantly. This growth has been accompanied by a demand for healthier oils as well as oils that retain their quality for longer, such as palm oil.

Compromise on food additives

Compromise reached at the Codex Committee on Food Additives (CCFA) has given the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) the opportunity to recognise geographical variations in the use of food additives while agreeing global standards for their safety.

There are 27 functional classes for food additives including: preservatives, which prolong the shelf-life of a food by protecting against deterioration caused by microorganisms; antioxidants, which prolong the shelf-life of foods by protecting against deterioration caused by oxidation; stabilizers, which make it possible to maintain a uniform dispersion of two or more components; and colours, which add or restore colour in a food among others. The safety of food additives is evaluated by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).

Maximum limits for pesticide residues in food in record time

CAC42 has adopted maximum residue limits (MRLs) for more than 30 different pesticides in various foods, including crops (barley, rye, and rice), vegetables (garlic, cucumber and peas), fruits (banana, orange and grape) and animal products (milk, eggs and poultry). It has been a significant achievement to translate the results of the FAO/WHO expert meetings on pesticide residues into Codex MRLs in less than a year.

Pesticides are chemicals used to kill insects, weeds and other pests to prevent them from damaging crops. Even when used in accordance with best practices, low levels of residues of pesticides can end up in food. The maximum limits aim to ensure pesticide residues do not harm people’s health, and are based on risk assessments from the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR).

Code of practice for the reduction of 3- monochloropropane1,2-diol esters (3- MCPDEs) and glycidyl esters (GEs)

This code of practice will promote Good Manufacturing Practices to help reduce the production of such contaminants to safe levels. Consumers will continue to benefit from the good properties of these oils and developing countries can still count on an important item for trade and economic growth while protecting public health.


CAC42 is chaired by Guilherme da Costa, Brazil (2nd from right)

New work

Allergen labelling

Declaration of foods or ingredients known to cause hypersensitivity (referred to as allergen labelling) is intended to provide consumers with access to clear and accurate information on the presence of allergens (or substances) in foods, so that they can make safe food choices. This is particularly significant given the potential life-threatening consequences for food allergic individuals, and as the prevalence of conditions is increasing in many parts of the world. 

Given the serious nature of food allergies and their health consequences, and the increasing complexity of the food supply chain, this new work will supplement the current allergen labelling provisions in the General Standard for Labelling of Pre-packaged Foods. It will provide more detail for industry on how allergens should be presented on food labels to ensure consumer protection and promote harmonization of allergen labelling.

This new work also complements the recent work by the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene (CCFH) on a draft Code of Practice on Food Allergen Management for Food Business Operators which provides guidance on allergen management throughout the food chain and promotes the inclusion of allergen management practices as part of good hygiene practices (GHPs), and, where appropriate, HACCP systems, in manufacturing, retail and food service.

Internet Sales/E-Commerce

The way in which food is traded and sold directly to consumers in changing with internet/ e-commerce emerging globally as a new platform for selling food. This presents new challenges in terms of the way information on the quality and safety of foods is provided to customers.  Currently there is a lack of standardised guidance for the labelling of food sold via internet sales/e-commerce which raises significant issues pertaining to health, food safety, and the protection of fair practices in the food trade. While some countries have adopted regulations specifically related to e-commerce, the growth of this platform and its transboundary nature means that it is important that some consistency is maintained at a global level to ensure that consumers are protected and impediments to trade that may arise from different approaches are minimized.  In line with its Strategic Plan to address emerging issues, the Commission agreed to address this topical issue by undertaking new work on the labelling of food sold through internet sales/e-commerce. This new text will be supplementary to the General Standard for the Labelling of Prepackaged Foods

Maximum Levels For Aflatoxins In Certain Cereals And Cereal-Based Products, Including Food For Infants and Young Children

Global consumption of cereal and cereal-based products is high.  Any level of aflatoxin contamination in these products could significantly contribute to total aflatoxin exposure.  Aflatoxins are genotoxic human liver carcinogens, and among the most potent mutagenic and carcinogenic substances known. Hepatitis B virus has been shown to be a critical contributor to the potency of aflatoxins in inducing liver cancer, with aflatoxin potency being 30 times higher in carriers of hepatitis B virus than in non-carriers.   Currently, there is no Codex maximum level (ML) for aflatoxins in cereal and cereal-based products. This new work will focus on the establishment of MLs for maize grain destined for further processing and flour, meal, semolina and flakes derived from maize; husked and polished rice; cereal-based food for infants and young children and sorghum.  Such MLs could greatly contribute to a reduction in dietary exposure to aflatoxins.

Guidelines for Compounds of Low Public Health Concern that could be exempted from the establishment of Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs).

As a result of growing public health concern expressed by scientific bodies, consumers, consumer health organizations and risk management agencies worldwide, the global regulatory scenario for pesticides of chemical origin is imposing increasing restrictions on this type of product. However, increasingly other types of plant protection products are becoming available, for example biopesticides.  The market for biopesticides has grown between 12 and 17 percent per year during the last 5 years, representing a growth two to three times faster than the market of chemical pesticides and non-chemical and biological control tools are playing an increasingly important role in the implementation of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approaches.  While these products are generally of low public health concern, it is nevertheless important that there are international standards to ensure their safe use. This new work aims to establish guidelines to harmonize the concepts and criteria for the recognition of pesticides that are of low public health concern and could be considered exempt from the establishment of Codex MRLs.

New work on development of guidelines for the control of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) in beef meat, leafy greens, raw milk and cheese produced from raw milk, and sprouts.

STEC are an important cause of foodborne disease, and infections have been associated with a range of illnesses from mild diarrhoea to kidney failure. The Codex Committee on Food Hygiene will develop the guideline to support risk management for STEC in these commodities.


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Photo credit

(c) FAO/Bob Scott