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Contaminants committee proposes new maximum levels for cadmium in chocolate


The 14th session of the Codex Committee on Contaminants in Food (CCCF14) has recommended for adoption to the Codex Alimentarius Commission new maximum levels (MLs) for cadmium in chocolate. Codex MLs ensure food does not contain contaminants at levels which could threaten human health. The levels set for cadmium are 0.3mg/kg for the category of chocolate containing up to 30 percent cocoa total solids and 0.7mg/kg for the 30 to 50 percent category.

Ecuador led the work on developing the new levels. “CCCF14 has recommended the adoption of the ML for cadmium in chocolates after several years of extensive discussions,” said Rommel Betancourt, acknowledging the work of the expert scientific advice group, coordinated by the Codex parent organizations FAO and WHO, that develop recommendations for Member Countries at Codex meetings. “The membership compromise is an example of how to get consensus to strengthen the Codex for protecting consumer health and establishing fair practices for the international food trade,” he said.

Simplicity for global compliance, enabling international trade.

“The Codex adoption of maximum levels for cadmium in chocolate products is a positive step forward for common global standards, based on expert scientific risk assessment and global data from producing regions.  A single standard means simplicity for global compliance, enabling international trade. Moreover, basing standards on global data helps avoid unnecessary food waste,” said Martin Slayne, of  The International Confectionery Association, a Codex observer.

Exposure could exceed the tolerable weekly intake.

However, the decision taken on the proposed levels was not unanimous. Veerle Vanheusden represented the European Union (EU) at the virtual meeting. The EU reserved its position on the MLs for cadmium in chocolate, “because these products are important contributors to the exposure of EU consumers and in particular of EU children, for which the mean dietary exposure could exceed the tolerable weekly intake established by the European Food Safety Authority by about twofold,” she said.

Vanheusden added that it was not possible to reach a compromise because MLs which the EU considers to be sufficiently protective for consumers, are much lower than the ones put forward in Codex. “At the Commission the EU intends to repeat its reservations,” she said.

Reduction of lead in foods

The committee will be sending a revised code of practice for the reduction of lead in foods for adoption at the next Commission, “an important accomplishment for a virtual meeting,” said Lauren Robin of The United States who worked closely with other Member Countries to ensure the text achieved consensus. “The code will help governments and industry follow best practices and supports work on lead MLs. It includes new information on topics like filtration aids for beverages and keeping farms safe from lead,” she said.

Protecting consumers from exposure to excess methylmercury.

Countries also agreed to start new work on MLs for two fish species, orange roughy and pink cusk-eel — aiming to complete by 2022. “Establishing Codex MLs for these species balances protecting consumers from exposure to excess methylmercury, making sure they get all the nutritional benefits of fish consumption, while supporting a harmonized international approach to the trade in these species,” said Andrew Pearson, New Zealand.

Chairperson Sally Hoffer, The Netherlands, thanked the 400 plus delegates who took part in the virtual sessions and was delighted the committee managed to complete a full agenda. “I am very happy with the results because we got these MLs and the code of practice to advance for adoption by the Commission,” she said.


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Thematic page

CCCF14 meeting page including working documents and draft standards

Main photo, Chairperson Sally Hoffer (left) with Astrid Bulder at the CCCF studio in Utrecht, The Netherlands.