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Japan solidifies its Codex Symposium tradition


The research group - the Health and Labour Science Research Grants, Research Program on Food Safety - Developing International Strategy for Food Safety Regulation based on International Food Standard-Setting Process in Japan –Japan – co-hosted by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Consumer Affairs Agency, and Policy Alternatives Research Institute of the University of Tokyo held its fifth annual Codex-related symposium at the University of Tokyo since 2013.

More people and food traveling around the world mean more countries engaging in the food trade, which brings about greater need for harmonized rules to ensure food safety and quality, reduce food waste and make business possible.

Codex Alimentarius Secretary Tom Heilandt told the 2018 symposium participants gathered in Tokyo in March.

By introducing that Codex is currently developing the next Codex strategic plan, Guilherme Antonio da Costa Júnior, the Chairperson of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, stated:

Guilherme Antonio da Costa Júnior

To follow the paradigm 'First things first,' we need ensure prioritization in our work, based on sound science, inviting commitment of all parties involved, and make continuous efforts to improve.

This year’s event largely focused on the future of food safety. Delving into the challenges and future developments of the Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems (CCFICS), the Chair, represented by Fran Freeman of Australia’s Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, affirmed:

Fran Freeman

CCFICS will continue to identify and respond to emerging challenges and issues that may arise in the context of inspection and certification of food.

About the future prospects and challenges of the Codex Committee on Food Labelling (CCFL), Paul Mayers of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the former CCFL Chair, gave an overview of potential new work. In October 2017, the Committee agreed to develop discussion papers for consideration by the 2019 CCFL meeting on topics such as e-commerce; allergen labelling; and criteria for ‘high in’ when referring to fats, sugars and sodium. He said:

Paul Mayers

Going forward, CCFL should continue to exemplify the core values of Codex while developing standards that support the Codex mandate: protecting the health of consumers and ensuring fair practices in the food trade.

This year’s event prompted the organizers to look back on how the annual tradition of hosting symposiums has evolved. The first symposium, in 2013, was one of the activities organized in Japan to celebrate Codex’s 50th anniversary. Dr Stuart Slorach, the former Chair of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), and Dr Kazuaki Miyagishima, Director of the Department of Zoonoses and Food Safety of WHO, were invited as keynote speakers. Also invited were panelists from industries and consumer organizations to discuss the achievements and challenges of CAC. In 2014, the second annual symposium focused on the role of Codex and Asia, and featured Annamaria Bruno from the Codex Secretariat and Pisan Pongsapitch from Thailand. A year later, in 2015, guests from the European Union (Ella Strickland, Eva Maria Zamora Escribano and Jerome Lepeintre) presented EU perspectives on Codex as well as how Codex activities in the EU were developed.

The symposium in 2017 highlighted scientific advice for Codex. Kazuaki Miyagishima, Director of the WHO Department of Food Safety and Zoonoses, and Japanese experts who participated in JECFA, JEMRA, or JMPR meetings recognized the importance of scientific advice and discussed how to strengthen contributions from Japan in this area such as training for the experts, increasing data submission for risk assessments, etc.

Hajime Toyofuku

Professor Hajime Toyofuku of Yamaguchi University asserted that the group will continue to invite prominent CAC figures and function as a platform for participants to exchange views and ideas directly, as well as to raise public awareness, and to better understand Codex among stakeholders in Japan. He said:

We look forward to having a continuous collaboration with CAC and members.

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