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CAC46/ “A wonderful bouquet of proposals” from youth and former Chairpersons


A well-attended side event was held at the 46th Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC46) 28 November which heard from young people and former Codex Chairpersons on the subject of how to sustain the work of Codex by engaging young people in its activities. The event was held at the invitation of former Codex Chairperson, Awilo Ochieng Pernet who also chaired the event, with the support of the Government of Switzerland.

Ochieng Pernet opened the event with a story she had heard from India involving an elderly man who planted mango saplings, the fruit of which he would never be able to enjoy. When challenged about his motives, he explained that he had enjoyed many mangoes in his life and now wanted to ensure others would also be able to do so in the future. This, she said, encapsulates the sentiment behind the consideration now of the sustainability of Codex.

The keynote speech was given by former Codex Chairperson, Sanjay Dave (elected 2011, chaired to 2014), who described a project he has developed since his retirement titled "Creating a cadre of young food safety professionals", which educates young people across India and abroad on food safety and Codex. Two graduates of his innovative scheme now work for the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India and one works for Codex India. “These are the people who are going to lead India and delegations of the future,” he said. “We want to institutionalize this.”

Two other former Chairpersons then offered different perspectives on youth engagement in Codex. Karen Hulebak, CAC Chairperson 2009–2011, bewailed a diminished appreciation for the value of public health globally. “We can’t build an appreciation for food safety without an appreciation for the importance of public health and our collective responsibility towards each other,” she said, proposing a greater emphasis on civic education around the world. Stuart Slorach, former Chairperson 2004–2005, made the point that there are many professions young people can be encouraged into throughout the risk analysis process, which, he pointed out, includes risk assessment, risk management and risk communication.

A panel discussion then included young representatives from different regions. Ochieng Pernet asked Nada Saeed from Saudi Arabia how we can transfer knowledge of Codex from the current generation of leaders to the next. Her proposals to promote educational platforms, training and an introduction of Codex into educational curricula resonated with the other young contributors. Spain’s Anna Cabrales Miró-Granada also thought that workshops and seminars in schools and universities are needed and also suggested using podcasts both by Codex and by well-known podcasters to explain Codex work and the relevance of Codex standards. Esther Rugara from Botswana, noting that “any organization that is not forward looking will not remain relevant,” said “the youth are the future – they bring to the table agility.” However, she pointed out that across Africa, Codex is already “infused into sessions in universities”. She proposed that a youth-themed World Food Safety Day would help to promote Codex among young people. She suggested a theme of “youth arise, engaging in Codex work.”

Panama’s Codex Contact Point, Joseph Gallardo, then described the work he, as a young Codex country representative, is doing to promote Codex work.

This is “a wonderful bouquet of proposals,” said Ochieng Pernet before inviting the audience to put questions to the panel. There were several questions, including some to Sanjay Dave about any plans to extend his education project to other countries or regions.

One audience member suggested Codex create a youth subcommittee in an effort to take some of the ideas expressed in this session further.

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