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Codex work on water use a valuable contribution on World Water Day


Water is a dwindling resource worldwide. On World Water Day 2021, the UN World Water Development Report  2021 on 'Valuing Water' is launched and in assessing water use in agriculture, calls for the implementation of management strategies that “could maximize the multiple values of water for food production” including improving water use efficiency; reducing demand for food and its consequent water use; and improving knowledge and understanding of water use for food Not all food processors have access to safe water sources while for others safe water access and waste discharge are incurring increasing financial and environmental costs.

In September 2020 the Codex Alimentarius Commission agreed new work to develop guidelines for the safe sourcing, use and reuse of water in direct and indirect contact with food across the food chain by applying the principle of fit-for-purpose using a risk-based approach.

The new text will consider the use of water along the food chain in context and it is also a response to the impact of climate change and the need to re-use or recycle water. Food business operators will benefit from practical guidance and tools to help them understand the risks and available interventions. The work should be completed in 2023.

Mirian Bueno is Director of Food Safety at the National Agency for Agri-food Health and Safety (SENASA) in Honduras one of the countries leading the work on the new guidelines. “What we've seen with the new work in Codex is that we have a really good opportunity to provide practical guidance for food business operators so they can apply a risk-based approach and optimize the use and reuse of water in the production and processing of safe food”.

The new text will build on one of the foundation texts in Codex, the General Principles of Food Hygiene. Where the General Principles describe the need to ensure water in food production is fit for purpose, the new guideline will go into more detail on how food business operators will need to assess the type of water needed, at each point in their food production.

“We all know that water is a really scarce resource and we need to use it rationally”, says Bueno. In many places water re-use, for example, is considered a viable option so that food business operators can source water of sufficient quality to produce safe food.

The UN report also states that “improving water security for food production in both rainfed and irrigated systems can contribute to reducing poverty and closing the gender gap”. In its own way, the new Codex guideline can also make a valuable contribution in this direction.


Read more

Learn more about World Water Day on the official website.

Read the Project Document for the new work on water from the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene report (2019) Appendix V.