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CCFL46 / Stunning achievement in sending food labelling standards for adoption


The 46th session of the Codex Committee on Food Labelling (CCFL46), hosted virtually by Canada from Ottawa, concluded on 7 October 2021 sending a new standard for the labelling of non-retail containers and guidelines for front-of-pack nutrition labelling (FOPNL) to the Codex Alimentarius Commission for adoption in November.

Chairperson, Kathy Twardek (pictured centre above), congratulating participants on the important progress made during the meeting said “it's stunning, really, I am thrilled. As a result of a lot of collaboration and flexibility, these accomplishments will be reported to the Executive Committee and the Commission.”

Members worked with determination and in a spirit of collaboration to achieve progress on a number of complex issues. “Progressing the guidelines on front-of-pack nutrition labelling … comes at an opportune moment to provide clear guidance to countries in a fast moving international FOPNL landscape,” said Maria Xipsiti, FAO.

“WHO is very happy to see the great progress made in moving forward with the Guideline on Front-of-Pack Nutrition Labelling,” said Chizuru Nishida, WHO.  Acknowledging the role Costa Rica and New Zealand played in the working group, managing, at times, controversial discussions, “they found the way forward with the principles and spirit of being flexible and inclusive to respect currently existing  FOPNL systems in different countries and those which may be developed in the future,” she said.

CCFL46 report adoption 7 October 2021

Hosts Canada lead the CCFL46 report adoption from Ottawa on 7 October 2021

Work on precautionary allergen labelling involving a revision to the general standard for the labelling of prepackaged foods with provisions relevant to allergen labelling, and guidance on precautionary allergen labelling made good progress.

“Current research on precautionary, or ‘may contain’, allergen statements suggests that they are often confusing for consumers and ineffective due to over-use,” said Christine Kopko, FAO.  The expert committee that provides scientific advice on food allergens will be reconvening in the upcoming weeks to complete its work.  “All discussions, conclusions and recommendations from these expert consultations will be captured in technical reports published by the Joint FAO/WHO Scientific Advice Programme and will be made available … well in advance of CCFL's next session,” she said.

Guidance on internet sales of food also moved forward in committee and working groups will now look to refine the text to clarify aspects of the guidance including the need to ensure that food information is available on the product information page when a purchase is made online.

New technology, alcoholic beverages, multipack formats and sustainability claims

The committee began to explore new work on using technology in food labelling, a practice already common with QR codes and websites frequently used to offer supplementary information to consumers. The labelling of alcoholic beverages and the labelling of foods in joint presentation and multipack formats will also be on the future agenda of CCFL. In future meetings, and in light of the conclusions of the UN Food Systems Summit, CCFL will be exploring ways to address sustainability claims, food labelling exemptions in emergencies and trans fatty acids.

Verna Carolissen of the Codex Secretariat, responsible for managing the passage of these standards through the working group phases during the COVID-19 pandemic to take advantage of the original postponement of the meeting said: “CCFL has completed two major pieces of work that will facilitate trade and ensure consumers receive valuable information when making food choices. We will continue to innovate in the way we bring experts and our Members and Observers together to ensure we produce robust, science-based standards to deliver on our mandate.”


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Draft final report available on the CCFL46 meeting page

Photo credit: Codex office Canada