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APPENDIX VIII - Keynote address By Mr Stuart Slorach Chairperson of the Codex Alimentarius Commission

(Conference Room Document 1B)

Bangkok, Thailand, 12-14 October 2004
Keynote address
Mr Stuart Slorach Chairperson of the Codex Alimentarius Commission

Codex and the Second Global Forum Complement Each Other


This presentation is intended to show how Codex activities and this Second FAO/WHO Global Forum of Food Safety Regulators (GF-2) complement each other.

What Codex Does

The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) develops standards, guidelines, codes of practice and related texts in order to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in the food trade. The CAC is an intergovernmental negotiating platform with over 170 members worldwide. Draft standards and related texts developed by Codex Committees and Task Forces are adopted by the CAC and incorporated into the "Codex Alimentarius" - the international food code. This has become the global reference point for consumers, food producers, processors and traders and national food control agencies. Codex standards are explicitly referenced in the World Trade Organization's Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the "SPS Agreement") as the international benchmark for food safety.

Codex standards and related texts

Codex standards and related texts cover a wide range of foods and food safety and quality issues. There are Codex standards on, for example:

Perhaps of greater interest for this Global Forum, which is focused on strengthening official food safety control services, rapid alert systems and food-borne disease surveillance, are Codex guidelines on, for example:

In addition there are Codex Codes of Practice on, for example:

Codex and GF-2 Complement Each Other

GF-2 is focused on information exchange and experience sharing on food control services, surveillance of food-borne disease and rapid alert systems. Codex is focused mainly on normative work (developing standards, guidelines, codes of practice, etc.). Codex also promotes mutual exchange of information on problems arising from food control and stimulates the strengthening of food control infrastructures, especially through its regional Coordinating Committees.

Many Codex texts, e.g. guidelines on the application of HACCP systems and on information exchange in food safety emergencies, are of direct relevance for the issues dealt with at this Global Forum. In addition, the process of elaborating Codex standards provides good opportunities for representatives from countries around the world to exchange information and share experience on many different current food safety issues. There is a strong emphasis consensus in decision-making in Codex. This Global Forum should facilitate consultation and dialogue among food safety regulators outside the negotiating arena, thus facilitating consensus building and smoothing the negotiation process.

Risk analysis and food safety

Codex working principles for risk analysis recommend a structured approach to food safety problems, comprising three distinct, but closely linked, components - risk assessment, risk management and risk communication. Both Codex and this Global Forum are focused mainly on the risk management and risk communication components.

Scientific basis for Codex standards

Codex has long recognized the importance of basing its food safety standards on a sound scientific foundation. The risk assessments on which Codex standards are based are provided by independent FAO/WHO expert bodies, such as the:

There is a need to consider broadening the scope of the expert bodies to cover new areas, such as risk-benefit evaluations, nutrition-related issues and emerging risks. A review of the provision of scientific advice to Codex and Member States is in progress and emphasis is placed on the need for a high level of scientific competence, independence, openness and transparency and adequate developing country participation.

Codex standards: national legislation and international harmonization

Codex standards and related texts are used as a guide to countries in developing their own legislation. This can result in substantial savings in time and money. In addition, national measures based on Codex standards are deemed necessary and thus in compliance with the SPS Agreement.

Codex standards play an important role in the worldwide harmonization of food safety and quality standards and regulations, thus facilitating international trade in food. Both the SPS and TBT (Technical Barriers to Trade) Agreements require signatory countries to base their legislation on the work of international standard-setting bodies. Codex is the main player in the food area.

Whole food chain perspective

Food safety can best be achieved by considering the food chain as a whole ("Farm-to-table approach") and safety and quality cannot be" inspected into" food at the end of the chain. In recent decades there has been a shift from end-product control to HACCP based control of food production, processing and distribution and systems auditing. Codex places emphasis on the preventive approach to food safety, including the need for Good Agricultural, Veterinary, Manufacturing and Hygienic Practices.

Cooperation between Codex and other organizations

Codex has a mandate to promote coordination of all food standards work undertaken by international governmental and non-governmental organizations and has established contacts with many such organizations, for example OIE, IPPC, ISO and IAEA. This is important in order to avoid duplication of effort and gaps in dealing with food safety issues. Codex is currently exploring ways and means to work more closely with OIE in dealing with problems of mutual concern, such as antimicrobial resistance.

Improving Codex

FAO/WHO carried out an evaluation of Codex food safety activities in 2002 and many of the recommendations from that evaluation to make Codex work faster and more efficiently have been, or are in the process of being, implemented. In addition, a Codex Trust Fund, to provide funds to enable greater participation from developing countries in Codex activities, has been launched and is now operational. A Training Package for enhancing participation in Codex activities is nearing completion and will be demonstrated on 14 October in the ESCAP Hall.

Some questions for discussion

As Chairperson of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, I would very much appreciate it if, during this Forum, you could consider the following questions:

Active participation in GF-2

This Global Forum provides a golden opportunity to exchange information, share experiences and learn from others about establishing and running food safety, food-borne disease surveillance and rapid alert systems. I hope that all participants will take an active part in the Forum - tell us your success stories, but also the special problems you have to deal with. In these times of increasing international trade in food and international tourist travel it is important to discuss with countries that you rarely have contact with - remember their problems today may be yours tomorrow! In connection with the conference a number of side-events have been arranged, which I hope as many as possible of you will attend to get information on important new developments related to the theme of this Global Forum.

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