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Codex Alimentarius: Dynamic standards

Recent developments in world trade and standardization have had an impact on food and food trade, generating the need for a fresh look at how the Codex Alimentarius Commission operates, The Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the World Trade Organization that was formed early in 1995 have added a new dimension to the commission, which is recognized as the only international intergovernmental body responsible for determining food standards.

The Codex Alimentarius commission of the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme was set up in 1962 to draw up world food standards. The basic objectives were to protect consumer health and facilitate international food trade. Codex currently has 151 member countries representing over 97 percent of the world population.

The Codex standards are dynamic, and the commission has had to move quickly in the last ten years in response to the speed of developments. The Codex committees have drafted over 240 food commodity standards and 41 codes of practice for the manufacture and handling of food products. They have also examined 3270 pesticides to determine maximum residue limits in food and have evaluated 760 food additives and 25 food contaminants to determine standards of use and control. The same has been done for veterinary drugs and related residues and methods of sampling and analysis.

The standards, codes of practice, guidelines and other recommendations issued by the Codex Alimentarius Commission are based on careful scrutiny of evidence and scientific analysis to ensure food quality and safety, The commission bases its food standards on criteria for the protection of consumer health and the promotion of fair practices in food trade.

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