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CCFA54 / bringing food additive experts and regulators together from all over the world


As we prepare for the 54th session of the Codex Committee on Food Additives (CCFA), we caught up with the Committee Chairperson, Dr Yongxiang Fan, Professor of the China National Centre for Food Safety Risk Assessment (CFSA), to find out more about the Committee and the issues to be discussed at this year’s session, which will take place in Chengdu, China, in the week of 22–26 April 2024.

Q: Fan thanks for your time. You have a long experience in CCFA, having served as Vice-Chairperson and, currently, as Chairperson of the Committee for many years. In your view, why does the work of CCFA continue to be so important?

Thank you. First of all, I am more than happy to welcome all delegates to Chengdu - an amazing city in southwest China - for CCFA54! Food additives are very relevant to food safety and food quality as well as consumers’ demand for food diversity.

Before being considered by Codex, any food additive must have been scientifically evaluated as being safe by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). Establishing an international standard on food additives is not only an important aspect in removing trade barriers on prepackaged food but is also a good reference on food additive regulation for Members. I understand many Member Countries use the General Standard on Food Additives (GSFA) (CXS 192-1995) and List of Codex Specifications for Food Additives (CXA 6-2023) as a basis for their national legislation.

CCFA is the only chance that food additive experts and regulators all over the world have to meet together,  exchange views and build friendship. The Committee session each year, I believe, has become a ceremony to food additive and food safety people.

Q: One of the long-standing items on the agenda of CCFA is the alignment of the food additive provisions of commodity standards. Can you explain to a general audience what this is all about?

There are many committees of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, including commodity committees such as the Codex Committee on Processed Fruits and Vegetables (CCPFV), which elaborates standards specifically on processed fruit and vegetable commodities. In the course of their standard development work a commodity committee sometimes includes specific food additive provisions within those standards when the committee considers that a general reference to the GSFA does not serve its purpose. As a result divergencies between food additive provisions in commodity standards and the GSFA have been created.

With the understanding that the GSFA should be the single reference point for food additives provisions in Codex, CCFA started work to align all the food additive provisions in commodity standards with the GSFA, replacing individual food additive provisions with a general reference to GSFA, and making revisions to the GSFA accordingly to ensure all commodity specific food additive provisions were included. The alignment work has been undertaken since CCFA42 in 2010, starting with standards for meat products. Commodity standards on milk and milk products, chocolate and cocoa products and fish and fishery products, for example,. have all been aligned with the GSFA.

CCFA50 published the Guidance to Commodity Committee on the Alignment of Food Additive Provisions and workplan after analyzing the whole situation. According to the workplan, the entire alignment work is scheduled to be completed in 2024. Once the alignment work on commodity standards has been completed, further food additive provisions should only be considered by CCFA, based on the advice of  the relevant commodity committee on the technological justification for the proposed new or amended food additive use(s). However, we can see from the updated workplan developed by the alignment Working Group in this session that there are still many standards on the list and long way to go.

Q: During the establishment of food additive standards, how can food science help strengthen consumer trust in food safety?

The use of food additives in conformance with the GSFA requires adherence to all the principles set forth in the GSFA, which reads as follows:

Only those food additives shall be endorsed and included in this Standard that, so far as can be judged on the evidence presently available from JECFA, present no appreciable health risk to consumers at the use levels proposed;

The use of food additives is justified only when such use has an advantage, does not present an appreciable health risk to consumers, does not mislead the consumer, and serves one or more of the technological functions set out by Codex.

Discussions on food additive provisions in CCFA either focus on safety or technological justifications. Both aspects deeply rely on food science. The Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) assigned by JECFA to each substance provides the safety basis for inclusion into the GSFA. All food additives subject to the provisions of the GSFA shall be used under conditions of good manufacturing practice, i.e. the quantity of the additive added to food shall be limited to the lowest possible level; the additive is of appropriate food grade quality and is prepared and handled in the same way as a food ingredient necessary to accomplish its desired effect. Food science experts from delegations carefully examine technological justifications for each additive to ensure consumers are not misled.

I understand many Member Countries use the General Standard on Food Additives (GSFA) (CXS 192-1995) and List of Codex Specifications for Food Additives (CXA 6-2023) as a basis for their national legislation.

Q: This is a committee in which there are diverse views: how do you reach consensus to establish those MLs that protect consumer health and facilitate fair practices in the food trade?

Diverse views come from: the diverse legislation culture, food producing technology as well as consumers’ preference in different regions. To find a common ground then to build consensus is the Chair’s job. All the views should be taken into careful consideration , as openness, transparency and inclusiveness are golden in Codex. Safety concerns can sometimes be easily addressed with a JECFA evaluation. Discussions usually focus on the technological justifications for additives used in various  food categories. Delegations with contradicting views are encouraged to fully express their points and try to find alternative ways forward on contentious points or issues. It is recognized that the development of harmonized standards will benefit all sides. With that goal, fortunately the Committee made fairly good progress on several controversial issues such as note 161, and additives use in wine. Here I would like to express my big thanks to all the delegations for their professional and excellent job!

Q: Going back to the agenda of CCFA, are there any particular items you wish to highlight or bring to attention?

There are always  a number of outstanding items in CCFA.

In this Session we can expect that the colour provisions under several food categories with note 161 (Subject to national legislation of the importing country aimed, in particular, at consistency with Section 3.2 of the Preamble) will be thoroughly discussed. Note 161, which has been used widely and is considered to have undermined the purpose of the GSFA to provide harmonized food additive provisions, should be removed or replaced by alternative notes that include a specific technological purpose.

The food additive provisions on wine will make progress after the Committee finally reached consensus on use of a note referring to the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) in the last session.

There are several issues that have been identified by the alignment working group. Meanwhile, a discussion paper on divergence of the food additive provisions between the GSFA and Codex Commodity standards will be discussed. I personally hope the Committee can be enlightened from the discussion and could finally find a good way forward to avoid further divergences on food additive provisions in Codex forever.

The proposal on the development of a standard for yeast will be reexamined in this session, when we will focus on the scope of yeast. CAC delegated CCFA as the forum to discuss this issue as CCFA is considered to be most relevant technical committee to take the request.

Delegates might be also interested in the information from JECFA, as Aspartame, Titanium dioxide together with many other substances have been evaluated by JECFA in the last year. JECFA reaffirmed ADIs of Aspartame and Titanium dioxide and CCFA will take actions accordingly.

I would encourage all delegates to actively engage in the discussion both in the physical working groups and in the plenary session. There will be  webcasting of the whole of CCFA54 including the physical working groups on  Friday 19 April and Saturday 20 April.  You are welcome to join us either in person or virtually..

Thank you!

Read more

CCFA54 page
Guidance to Commodity Committees on the Alignment of Food Additive Provisions