FAO Regional Office for Europe and Central Asia

Countries in Europe and Central Asia reconfirm commitment to advance food standards in the region

©FAO/Abdul Mustafazade


Food standards help ensure that food produced, traded, and consumed is safe, and meets the quality parameters expected by the consumer.  Several countries in the Europe and Central Asia region use Codex standards and texts as the basis for strengthening their legal framework for food safety including development of food laws, regulations, and other measures. 

Countries from the region met at the two-day event on “Advancing food standards and Codex participation in Europe and Central Asia” and discussed food standards, progress on food control systems, and challenges and participation in the Codex Alimentarius Commission from a regional perspective. The role of food safety within the concept of One Health was also addressed. The event also marked the fifth anniversary of the host Azerbaijan Food Safety Agency and the sixtieth anniversary of Codex.

Representatives of 23 countries, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), World Health Organization (WHO), the World Trade Organization, UNICEF, European Commission, World Bank, and the heads of relevant executive authorities of the Republic of Azerbaijan attended the hybrid event. 

The Chairperson of the Azerbaijan Food Safety Agency, Goshgar Tahmezli, noted in his opening speech that the Agency, established with the aim to improve food safety in the country by implementing state regulation and food control, is actively cooperating with FAO, including in the establishment of a well-functioning National Codex Committee. The Minister of Health of Azerbaijan, Teymur Musayev, and Minister of Agriculture, Majnun Mammadov, emphasized the importance of food safety for protecting public health and food production and trade during the time of global threats and risks.

Nasar Hayat, the FAO Representative  in Azerbaijan, noted “within the continuously changing context of food systems, food safety requires continuous monitoring and improvement, and invited the participants to exchange views and share best practices, as well as to reflect on ongoing challenges to food safety, and emerging issues. Hande Harmanci, the representative and head of the country office of World Health Organization in Azerbaijan, highlighted that “the challenges we face today on food safety are global in nature. To address them effectively, we must foster strong partnerships, not only among nations but also across sectors, bringing together governments, industry, civil society, and academia.” Hilde Kruse, Senior Food Standards Officer, representing the Codex Secretariat, congratulated Azerbaijan on their efforts and emphasized that Codex standards can only have an impact when they are implemented.  

The event included panel and plenary discussions on updates from the region on food safety priorities, the role and use of standards for safe food and strengthening the One Health approach to food safety, and experiences in setting national standards, successes, and challenges. Participants were also informed on the preparations for the upcoming meeting of the Codex region for Europe and Central Asia, planned for May 2024 in Berlin, Germany. 

Established by FAO and WHO, the Codex Trust Fund projects support countries to build strong, solid, and sustainable national capacity to engage in Codex work. Beneficiaries of these projects in the region, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, North Macedonia, and Turkmenistan, joined a panel discussion to share experiences. They also noted that  the projects produced many useful documents on Codex management at national level and they are ready to share them with the countries in the region. Representatives from Sweden and Türkiye encouraged the countries in the region to become a twinning partner for future beneficiary countries, which is a modality that ensures knowledge and experience transfer and helps the benefiting countries to take the necessary steps to progress faster. The guests afterwards visited the laboratory of Azerbaijan’s Food Safety Institute.  

“Active participation of the delegates in the discussions shows their commitment to improve food safety. Many of the Member Countries take Codex texts as a basis for their national food standards, working towards enforcing them appropriately,” said Mary Kenny, FAO Food Safety and Consumer Protection Officer, reflecting on the successful event. Noting that key principles that food safety practitioners and authorities follow to prevent and manage food safety hazards from farm to fork are in line with One Health approach, she recommended to strengthen the cooperation, communication and sharing of data across sectors.