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CAC44 / Codex Members updated on approach for second virtual Commission


A webinar held on 21 July 2021 gave countries an update on plans for the 44th Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC44) scheduled for November 2021 and the procedures currently being developed by the Codex Secretariat, together with FAO and WHO, that are expected to be presented to the Membership for endorsement similar to the approach taken for the first virtual CAC in 2020.

Speaking at the event attended by over 150 participants, Codex Secretary Tom Heilandt said that before holding a virtual CAC44, as agreed “we are going to put this in front of the membership - how we intend to hold the Commission and how we intend to run elections”. The path followed by FAO for their elections at the 42nd FAO conference may be the approach proposed to Codex Members in a communication likely to be distributed by 31 July 2021.

The webinar was also an opportunity to discuss reactions to the first six virtual technical committees held between February and July of 2021. Hakim Mufumbiro, Uganda and Regional Coordinator for the Codex African region was one of the Members invited to participate in the round table discussion. “What I am seeing is that countries who were already active in physical sessions have increased their delegations … and new Members in the region are starting to catch up,” he said.

“Virtual communication drastically reduces barriers to access,” said Leonardo Veiga, Uruguay, which has meant countries in the region being able to participate where it would have been impossible in the physical world. He called on Codex geographical representatives to play a more important role in coordinating the positions in the region “to present the arguments once” at the Commission.

Usha Sriram-Prasad, speaking for the Australian Host Secretariat of the Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems said her team was happy to be able to hold a meeting at all “and get through the work on our plate”. However, the time zone in which a meeting takes place will always be a challenge for some people and probably not sustainable over a long period of time.

“You have to put in some prior work to set everything up for a virtual meeting to run smoothly,” said Sally Hoffer, Chairperson of the Codex Committee on Contaminants in Foods, from The Netherlands, and alert delegations in advance what is going to be discussed within the narrower timeframe of virtual meetings.

Carel du Marchie Sarvaas is Executive Director of HealthforAnimals, a Codex Observer. “We pick very carefully where we intervene … and only if we really have to”, to state a position so that everybody knows. Codex has become more democratic “as people who would otherwise not participate are now participating,” he said, although he felt some people were still reluctant to speak in a virtual environment and some delegations do tend to repeat their interventions.

The Codex Secretariat committed very early on in the pandemic to supporting the countries that manage Codex meetings offering, training, meeting management support and technical wisdom. Food Standards Officers also had to rethink the way meetings were prepared, setting up innovative technical sessions for delegates, bringing in experts leading work on different topics and operating behind the scenes to ensure that as many pieces of work as possible could be discussed successfully in the actual virtual committee sessions. We felt the need to bring delegates, especially first time delegates “up to speed”, said Patrick Sekitoleko, Codex Secretariat, particularly on complex or highly technical topics, and to coordinate with chairpersons on a range of technical matters relating to the standards as well as logistical issues so that everyone was clear what was expected in the meeting.


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Download the webinar audio: English, French, Spanish