CL 124/17


Hundred and Twenty-fourth Session

Rome, 23-28 June 2003

Convening of Global and Regional Meetings of Food Safety Regulators

1. The right of everyone to have access to safe and nutritious food is affirmed in the opening statement of the 1996 Rome Declaration on World Food Security. The increase of public awareness of food safety issues, as well as the expansion of agricultural and food trade resulting from the new trading environment brought about by the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreements, create both challenges and opportunities for the food and agricultural sector, including fisheries. At its 123rd Session (November 2002), the Council recognized the importance of food safety issues for consumer protection and in relation to food trade, and the need for Members to build effective food safety systems using a science-based, food chain approach – from the primary producer to the consumer.

2. Conferences such as the first Global Forum of Food Safety Regulators (GF-1) (Marrakesh, January 2002)and the Pan-European Conference on Food Safety and Quality (Budapest, February 2002) provide an opportunity for food safety regulators in developed and developing countries to exchange information and experiences on food safety management, and to foster partnership alliances in support of capacity building. They help foster harmonization of ideas and creation of natural and sustainable networks amongst regulators and their systems.


3. GF-1 unanimously agreed that another Global Forum should be held in 2004 in a developing country. At its 123rd Session, the Council agreed in principle that FAO, in association with WHO, could initiate the preparation of a second Global Forum of Food Safety Regulators on the understanding that a final decision on the convening of a second Global Forum would be taken at this 124th session, taking into consideration the outcome of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) discussion on the evaluation of the Codex and the views of the Committee on Agriculture (COAG) on this matter.

4. In order to record the feeling and sound the views of the main contributors, FAO and WHO convened a Preliminary meeting with representatives of G-8 countries and of the European Community on 12 February 2003, in Geneva.

5. The Preliminary meeting expressed general satisfaction with the outcome of GF-1. In particular, the large and active participation of developing countries, the number of practical experiences shared, together with lessons learned,the frank and non-binding exchanges of opinion on challenges met and successes achieved by food safety regulatory system in rich and poor countries alike, were highlighted as important elements that contributed to the success and uniqueness of GF-1. The meeting agreed that,as for GF-1, in order to keep the discussion as open and frank as possible, no formally adopted report or recommendations should be issued at the conclusion of GF-2. Instead, the documentation should be kept to a minimum and detailed proceedings should be published.

6. Concerning the budget, FAO and WHO presented estimates for two options, at US$512,631 (for a meeting in 6 languages) and US$378,782 (for a meeting in 3 languages). These options did not include the necessary additional human resources required to assist the Secretariat in the preparation of the GF-2. The Preliminary meeting expressed the need for the Secretariat to develop additional options to reduce cost. These could consider a reduced number of languages for the conference and for the proceedings, and a lower cost meeting format, in particular the number of plenary sessions and of parallel discussion groups.

7. Several countries (Canada, European Community, France, Germany and Japan) have expressed their readiness to contribute financially to the GF-2 budget. France has further informed that she will provide the services of a full-time senior professional expert for 2 years to assist the Secretariat in the preparatory work. The other delegations were not in a position to make any financial commitment at that time. The Preliminary meeting suggested that other donors should also be approached to contribute to GF-2 budget.

8. GF-1 recommended that the main theme for GF-2 should be “Building effective Food Safety Systems”. The Preliminary meeting unanimously supported this theme. In order to define well the scope of the discussions, the meeting requested FAO and WHO to seek advice from Member countries on possible sub-themes to be covered by GF-2 through appropriately designed questionnaire.

9. GF-1 also recommended that GF-2 should be held in a developing country, tentatively during fall of 2004. The Preliminary meeting endorsed this recommendation. Chile, Malaysia and Mexico have already expressed their interest in hosting GF-2.

10. FAO and WHO will convene a Preparatory Meeting to take into account the views of a larger group of countries (25–30) in the preparation of GF-2. The meeting, which will include representatives of donors, and of each FAO and WHO Region, so that countries at all levels of development are represented, will be held on 8 July 2003 at FAO Headquarters in Rome, in connection with the next Session (26th) of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. The Preparatory Meeting will in particular examine the budget proposals, as well as the relevant aspects of the organization, the candidatures of countries for hosting GF-2, and the suggestions of sub-themes.


11. At its 123rd Session, the Council considered that decisions to convene further FAO/WHO Pan-regional Conferences on Food Safety and Quality should be left to countries of each region. Consequently, a request was made for the inclusion of an agenda item on “Practical actions to promote food safety issues” in all forthcoming FAO Regional Conferences (except Europe which has already held one) to provide countries of each region with the opportunity to discuss the matter and decide on the need for holding a separate pan-regional conference. At the time of writing this document, the Agenda of the Asian, African, Near Eastern, and Latin America & Caribbean Conferences have not been finalised.

12. For Asia, the Codex Regional Coordinating Committee recommended that a pan-regional conference be held before GF-2. The Government of Malaysia has offered to host it in Kuala Lumpur in 2004. In line with Council guidance, the views of the countries of the region were solicited through a meeting of representatives of the concerned countries on 29 April 2003. At this meeting the representatives confirmed their interest in holding the Conference and appreciated the offer of the Government of Malaysia to host such a Conference which is planned for May 2004. They provided guidance on the substantive content of the Conference and made concrete proposals to the Secretariat with regard to the organizational costs.

13. No other Pan-regional Conference on food safety and quality is currently envisaged in 2004.


14. The Twenty-fifth (Extraordinary) Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission was convened, from 13 to 15 February 2003, so as to allow Members countries to express their views on the outcome of the Evaluation of the Codex Alimentarius and Other FAO and WHO work on Food Standards. Concerning capacity building in food safety, many delegations supported the recommendations of the Evaluation Team and emphasized its importance in order to ensure effective participation of developing countries in the Codex process and to allow countries to address food safety issues at the national level. The Commission also called for a more coordinated approach for capacity building between FAO and WHO and requested the parent bodies to urgently analyse their existing means of providing capacity building and inform the Codex Alimentarius Commission on how they would improve coordination and distribution of work drawing on their mutual strengths and synergies. Indeed, the proposed main theme of GF-2 appears very consistent with those recommendations. Moreover, as it is convened jointly by FAO and WHO, it will help the Organizations to coordinate their activities on capacity building on the basis of the needs expressed by the food safety regulators themselves.

15. The proposed main theme of GF-2 is also in line with the emphasis given by FAO’s Committee on Agriculture (COAG), at its 17th Session (April 2003), to capacity building in developing countries, and to the coordination of FAO and WHO actions related to food safety.


16. The 124th Council may consider: i) taking a final decision on the convening of a second Global Forum in a developing country; ii) endorsing the recommendation of GF-1 and of the Preliminary meeting that the main theme be “Building effective Food Safety Systems”; and iii) providing information and guidance on how to mobilize additional financial resources for FAO and WHO to organize this Forum.

17. The Council may wish to advise on the appropriate preparatory processes for the Regional Conference on Food Safety for Asia and the Pacific, including collaboration with WHO and countries of the region, and the mobilization of additional resources for convening it.