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Observer spotlight: International Dairy Federation


The International Dairy Federation (IDF), a longstanding Codex Observer organization, now has more than 1 200 dairy experts dedicated to helping ‘nourish the world with safe and sustainable dairy’, a mission that aligns well with ‘protecting health and facilitating trade’. IDF has been contributing to the development of standards for the dairy sector since 1903. With member countries representing the entire dairy chain – from farmers and processors to research centers and academia – IDF has served as technical advisor to Codex since 1963, the year it was established. The Codex Secretariat recently had a conversation with Caroline Emond, IDF Director General, who attended her first Codex Alimentarius Commission in July 2018.

In a global environment with interconnected value chains, international standards to ensure safety and quality are essential

Caroline Emond IDF

Caroline Emond, Director General IDF

Q. What is the estimated value of the international dairy trade?

A. Dairy accounts for 15 percent of agricultural trade and is projected to increase, according to the OECD - FAO Agricultural Outlook. In 2013 the trade of milk products was valued at around 83.6 billion USD. In many parts of the world, especially in rural areas, milk production is part of the socio-economic network. A lot of women are lifted out of poverty thanks to dairy farming, a livelihood sector that offers opportunities to both genders.

Q. How do see the future of food safety and/or trade in the dairy sector?

A. Food safety is at the heart of IDF’s mission. Harmonization of standards and the development of methods of analysis will continue to be major trade facilitators. Without a clear standard and easy way to test, trade is much more difficult and often impossible. Food safety is also about building consumers’ trust, which will remain key. We need to ensure that consumers can trust food products that are produced and global standards like Codex standards help to gain that trust.

Q. What change do you see on the horizon?

A.  I see the role of technology changing in line with innovation. In line with this advancement, we need to keep apace with international standards. While we all have the expertise to develop important standards, the challenge lies in capacity building, making sure that the standards are applied. Having to continually improve on the methods of testing to ensure compliance with standards will probably remain a challenge in the future.

Q. What Codex technical committee work is of interest to IDF?

A. Obviously, any work on dairy is very important to us, so are the committees on Food Hygiene, Food Labeling, Food Additives, Methods of Analysis and Sampling, Food for Special Dietary Uses and the Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance, and Nutrition.

Q. What food safety issues is IDF working on?

A. We have been very involved in the revision of the General Principles of Food Hygiene. We are also involved in a review of listeria in dairy production. We are building capacities to reduce AMR, based on a guide on best practices that we published a few years ago. IDF is very active on farm management and animal welfare issues – we are working on many fronts.

Q. IDF creates its own standards – why would Codex standards be needed, too?

A. IDF was developing standards before Codex was founded. As soon as Codex started developing standards, we strove to ensure alignment with our work. Additionally, we have published standards for Methods and Analysis and Sampling with ISO. I believe we now have 180 standards, so that work is complementary to Codex. Codex is global and we share the same principle that standards must be science-based.

Q. How does IDF benefit from participating in Codex meetings?

A. I would say that our relationship is mutually beneficial – Codex also benefits from IDF’s expertise, from our more than 1 200 dairy experts worldwide. It is useful for us to attend Codex meetings to better understand country positions and contribute towards attaining global standards.

Q. In your view, what role will food standards (Codex, IDF or other) have in the future?

A. In a global environment with interconnected value chains, international standards to ensure safety and quality are essential. We can no longer believe that a strictly national approach would work – a global food chain means we need to work collectively to maintain internationally recognized standards.

Q. What challenges does the dairy sector face in implementing standards? Can you give an example?

A. A challenge that most are facing is to ensure that all actors in the food chain can work together to implement the standards. In IDF we ensure that around the table are people with different roles and responsibilities. I think that globally we need to make sure that there is collaboration. Standards can be very technical, so communication poses a challenge. To translate the science into something that is practical and easy to understand, we produce guides, such as on dairy farming, animal welfare or AMR.

Q.  What was your experience to attend your first CAC?

A. I joined IDF in February, so CAC41 was all new to me. It was interesting to see that Codex is very focused on results, people are very committed to the mission of providing safe food, you could see a lot of expertise and devotion in making sure that the work is done properly. I was proud to be part of that.

Q. What is the importance of Codex Observers?

A. Collaboration with organizations like IDF and others which share the vision of Codex to provide science-based standards to ensure safe food – should be valued. Long-standing organizations with credible and useful expertise bring value to Codex’s work and should continue to be given a chance to contribute.  Collectively, we can achieve more through the sharing of our expertise and scientific research so that we constantly strive for improvements.

Q. We were fortunate to have Mr Atze Schaap of Friesland Campina, an IDF member, on the panel of a High-level Political Forum side event in New York on 12 July. Your thoughts?

A. This was a great opportunity – the discussion was very interesting. I think we saw the importance of the relationship with different, credible stakeholders at that event. We are lucky at IDF to have this diversity of stakeholders and expertise. While standards can be developed at international level, they need to be implemented at national level, and that is a widespread collective effort.

Q. What is the Dairy Declaration of Rotterdam?

A. It was signed by IDF and FAO in 2016 – a pledge from the dairy sector to the Sustainable Development Goals. One billion people around the world are benefiting from the dairy sector. While taking actions to reduce our environmental impact, we want to demonstrate our great socio-economic impacts and contribution to people nutrition and wellness. The Declaration is our way to focus on this commitment.

Read the CAC41 IDF information document in English, French and Spanish 

Visit the IDF web site