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Codex goes for true blue


Codex texts impact positively on consumer health and the international food trade when they are applied and used to guide food safety authorities and food businesses on good practices and safe maximum levels (MLs) of contaminants, additives and pesticide and veterinary drug residues. Occasionally, though, the very existence of or inclusion in a Codex standard can have far reaching positive impacts at a social and environmental level, as well as in terms of consumer health and the economy. And so it was with the agreement of the 54th meeting of the Codex Committee on Food Additives (CCFA) to recommend adoption of the ML for a new blue food colorant by CAC47 in November this year.

This first ever acid stable natural blue colour – a “holy grail” in the food industry – is derived from the fruit of the jagua (Genipa americana) tree and was developed in Colombia where the jagua fruit is produced in collaboration with small farmers and indigenous communities. The fruits are produced in compliance with the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Nagoya Protocol, a fact that highlights the potential complementarity between work towards Codex standards and other international organizations and protocols. “We are absolutely delighted in Colombia that Jagua blue is now included in the Codex General Standard for Food Additives (GSFA, CXS 192-1995). This inclusion can improve the economy of indigenous communities in Colombia by opening up new markets and commercial opportunities and can also drive biodiversity conservation and the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices,” said First Secretary to the Embassy of Colombia in China, Mr Daniel Mesa Salazar after CCFA agreed to the inclusion of Jagua Blue in the GSFA.

The Colombian delegation at CCFA54, stated that the new MLs for Jagua Blue will release a “wealth of positive social and environmental impacts and natural colour opportunities in pure blue and in green, purple, and brown (through blends with other approved colours) for the global food and beverages industry.” Because Codex texts are benchmark texts for the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS Agreement), and because they are set by the 189-Member Codex Alimentarius Commission, they represent - in the case of food additives - global recognition of the safety of relevant ingredients.

Before being considered by CCFA, the safety of Jagua Blue as a food additive needed first to be prioritized and then evaluated by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) and assigned an international numbering system number, which in this case is INS 183. The technological justification for the additive had to be submitted and all criteria outlined in the GSFA had to be met. Data were submitted in 2015 and assessments finalized in 2021. “Jagua Blue exemplifies how the collective actions from all stakeholders can ensure that all necessary data are made available so that JECFA can successfully evaluate the safety of food additives that are complex in their composition, yet important for food producers,” says the FAO/WHO JECFA Secretariat.

“In my view, this serves as an excellent procedural example of how a substance can be approved for use as a food additive, including the assignment of an INS number and the completion of JECFA's evaluation,” says Lingping Zhang, Food Standards Officer in the Codex Alimentarius Secretariat. “It demonstrates the journey a substance undergoes to be considered for inclusion in the GSFA. This vivid case also highlights how Codex standards, prioritizing food safety, can stimulate economic and social development.”

Read more

CCFA54 webpage


Photo © Ecoflora and Ministry of Health of Colombia