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CAC45 / a new format and a key decision to be made


The 45th Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC45) is less than two weeks away and it may be one of the most interesting gatherings in recent times. It will be the first physical meeting of CAC in 3 years and the first ever that has the option for virtual attendance – a major challenge for us in the Codex Secretariat. In addition, there is a huge interest in the Codex family to see how we can move forward on the MRLs for zilpaterol as CAC44 “had requested the Codex Secretariat to ensure that all tools, including voting, are at the disposal of CAC45 to allow resolution of this issue.”

A physical meeting means for many a welcome return to the ways of the past but what has changed? The pandemic forced organizations to rethink the way meetings were held and Codex responded with skill and commitment. Host countries ran their meetings successfully, intelligently reducing agendas, and the Commission was able to hold two fully virtual sessions. Last year we even organized physical elections and a virtual meeting in two places at the same time.

Everybody has welcomed the greater participation, especially from developing countries, at virtual Codex meetings. But virtual, while saving costs and increasing attendance, is missing the human element and this is why many Members are eager to return to having at least some physical sessions.

Some upcoming committees are planned as physical sessions with webcasting, which would have been hailed as innovative some years back but is now really the minimum expected. “Hybrid meetings are more expensive” we often hear from host governments as they try to provide more opportunities for participation with the same resources. And it is true hybrid brings added costs and work. Does the result justify the effort? What will the future bring? Will we return to a situation where because of our costs we are denying those countries unable to travel, also due to costs, from having a voice? Will we find another way forward?

The Codex Secretariat is working together with host countries in their planning to face this dilemma and explore all possible methods to maintain participation and transparency in their operations. Should we have fewer but more inclusive meetings? Should we alternate between fully virtual and fully physical? Many ideas are on the table. These are exciting times, and we will have to continue experiment and inventing new ways - together.

CAC45 will seek to resolve the issue of maximum residue limits for zilpaterol, a veterinary drug used to enhance growth performance in cattle. Glancing back in history at the Codex record on similar topics underlines how countries have struggled to find consensus when Members hold such strong views . The Codex Secretariat is receiving daily enquiries whether there will be a vote and how this might take place, what the options are and how countries should prepare to take part.

What we can say is that the Members, guided by the elected Officers of the Commission, will have to find a way forward. Be it by consensus or by vote, all decisions in Codex rest with the Members. From the Secretariat all participants can expect extensive planning to support them in that process.


Learn more

CAC45 meeting page

Additional FAQ on CAC45