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Codex Alimentarius Commission: 02-06 July 2018

Live updates of decisions being taken at the ongoing 41st Session in Rome, Italy

The United Nations food standards body Codex Alimentarius Commission is meeting in Rome from 02 to 06 July 2018 to adopt food safety and quality standards.

Charged with protecting consumer health and ensuring fair practices in the food trade, the Codex Alimentarius is a joint initiative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Decisions taken at the 41st session of the Commission will be published below as they are made.

For more information on the upcoming Codex session, visit the links listed at right.  

New work on front of pack nutrition labelling and date marking revision to Codex standard

AGREED - 3  July 2018

The Codex Alimentarius Commission agreed to undertake new work to develop a guidance on providing simplified nutrition information to consumers to enable them to identify healthier food choices, while avoiding creating unnecessary obstacles to the food trade. Food labelling bearing this information is an important tool to help stop the increased incidence of obesity and some chronic non-communicable diseases.

The Commission also revised the General Standard for the labelling of prepackaged foods, improving the date marking and storage instructions. Date marking, whether indicating the date of manufacture, packaging, best before, use-by or expiration, should provide reliable information to consumers and ensure food safety, but also serves to prevent food waste. The revision brings an update on date marking and better clarity to the terminology.

Related links:

Maximum residue limits for veterinary drugs in animal products: gentian violet, amoxicillin, ampicillin, lufenuron and monepantel

AGREED - 3 July 2018

The Codex Alimentarius Commission has adopted maximum residue limits for a range of drugs sometimes used in food-producing animals. The decision was based on an evaluation by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).

For the drug gentian violet, used as an antifungal veterinary drug, JECFA raised a health concern and could not define a safe exposure level.

In view of this conclusion, Codex found that there is no safe and acceptable level of residues of gentian violet or its metabolites in food to avoid risk to consumers. For this reason, competent authorities should prevent residues of gentian violet in food.

Maximum residue limits (MRL) were set for the following veterinary drugs amoxicillin (an antibiotic used for finfish, MRL no more than 50 μg/kg), ampicillin (an antibiotic used for finfish, MRL no more than 50 μg/kg), lufenuron (an anti-ektoparasitic used for salmon and trout, MRL no more than 1350 μg/kg) and monepantel  (used for treating worms in cattle, MRL no more than 7000 μg/kg for fat, 1000 μg/kg for kidney, 2000 μg/kg for liver, 300 μg/kg for muscle).

Related links:

Maximum limits for pesticide residues in food

AGREED - 3 July 2018

The Codex Alimentarius Commission has adopted maximum residue limits for more than 26 different pesticides in various foods and feeds.

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).  The list of the 26 pesticides and the maximum residue limits can be found at Relevant Codex document (para 110 & Appendix II and III).

Related links:

Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR)

WHO Q&A on pesticide residues in food

WHO fact sheet on pesticide residues in food

Alignment of food additives and full integration into the General Standard for Food Additives

AGREED - 3 July 2018

The Codex Alimentarius Commission approved the revised food additive sections of 15 commodity standards, aligning them to the General Standard for Food Additives including on maximum use levels. The alignment entailed inserting references to the GSFA, as called for by the Codex Alimentarius Commission Procedural Manual. These fall under the 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 are evaluated by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA).

Related links:

Relevant Codex document

Search the food additives database

Code of Practice to reduce dioxins, dioxin-like PCBs and non-dioxin-like PCBs in food and feed

AGREED - 3 July 2018

These chemicals are persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the environment that can enter the food chain and have negative effects on human health. These contaminants can accumulate in tissues of food-producing animals, including fish, and be found in products, such as milk and eggs. In fact, people are exposed to dioxins and related compounds mainly through consuming food of animal origin, with approximately 90 percent of the total exposure via fats in fish, meat and dairy products. The code of practice has been updated to include provisions for the management of non-dioxin like PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), following a detailed risk assessment of JECFA  (Joint FAO-WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives and contaminants). The revision covers the entire food-chain including good feeding practices. The Codex code is for use by national authorities, by farmers, feed and food manufacturers to prevent or reduce dioxin and PCB contamination in food and feed.

Related links:

Read the relevant Codex documents

Maximum level for methylmercury in fish

AGREED - 3 July 2018

To protect against high exposures of mercury, the Codex Alimentarius Commission has set new limits for methylmercury found in fish.

Fish that live for a long time, and are higher in the food chain, have raised levels of methylmercury in their bodies. Mercury can have toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems of humans, and on lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes.  

To reduce exposure to methylmercury, the Commission set limits for several fish species, ranging from 1.2 to 1.7 mg per kg of fish.

This includes no more than 1.2 mg of methylmercury per kg of tuna, 1.5 mg per kg of alfonsino, 1.7 mg per kg of marlin and 1.6 mg per kg of shark.

Related links:

Relevant Codex document (para 91 (i), (ii) and (iv) & Appendix IV-PART A)

More information on methylmercury as a public health concern

Maximum level of cadmium in chocolate

AGREED - 2 July 2018

To protect against high exposure to cadmium, the Codex Alimentarius Commission has set new limits for contamination of the naturally occurring contaminant found in chocolate.

Cocoa beans, which are used in the production of chocolate, can take up cadmium from the soil and water. In some instances, cocoa beans may have raised levels of cadmium, which can be stored in the human body for a long time. Higher intake of cadmium is linked to kidney damage.

Limiting cadmium levels in chocolate can ensure exposure to the contaminant is not too high.

In 2010, the Joint Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) established a provisional safe monthly intake of cadmium for humans of 25 μg (micrograms) per kilogram of body weight.

Based on this assessment, in an effort to reduce exposure, the Commission set limits for cadmium in different types of chocolate of 0.8 or 0.9 mg/kg of chocolate, depending on the cocoa content.  

Related links:

Relevant Codex document (para 67 (i) and (ii) & Appendix III)

More information on cadmium as a public health concern

Guidance for Histamine Control in the Code of Practice for Fish and Fishery Products (CAC/RCP 52-2003)

AGREED - 2 July 2018

The Codex Code of Practice for Fish and Fishery Products provides best practice guidance at growing, harvesting, handling, production, processing, storage, transportation and retail to ensure product safety and quality.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission has adopted revisions to the Code's guidance for the control of histamine, which is a toxin that forms in some species of fish when they are not stored under appropriate time/temperature conditions. Histamine may trigger allergy-like symptoms in humans.

The update provides detailed guidance on the control of histamine formation from harvesting of fish through to final consumption. There is a particular focus on temperature control, record keeping and documentation.

The Code emphasizes that implementing measures to prevent histamine formation is more important for ensuring safety of the product than histamine testing, which could be resource intensive.

Related links:

Code of Practice for Fish and Fishery Products (CXC 52-2003)

Photo: ©FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto
Comprising 188 members and the European Union, the Codex Alimentarius Commission meets annually to examine food safety and quality standards and other recommendations for food.

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