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Committee on Food Hygiene - Los Angeles


The food hygiene committee CCFH has been meeting since 1964 and is responsible for drafting basic provisions on food hygiene applicable to all food.

People have the right to expect the food they eat to be safe and suitable for consumption. Foodborne illness and foodborne injury are at best unpleasant; at worst, they can be fatal.

Codex General Principles of Food Hygiene 

Los Angeles - Q&A with Chair Dr Emilio Esteban

Dr Emilio Esteban

As the 48th session of the committee begins in Los Angeles, Dr Emilio Esteban, Executive Associate for Laboratory Services in the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service, who chairs the committee, spoke about the upcoming meeting.

Q. For those who will be meeting you for the first time at CCFH, tell us what you do outside Codex?  

A. I work for the United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service.  In particular, I manage the laboratory operations of the Agency overseeing the work of approximately 250 staff located at three different laboratories in California, Missouri, and Georgia.

Q. You have been chairing this committee since its 40th session in 2009. What would you consider to be its greatest achievements?

A. It’s greatest achievement is that we operate as a team, working through problems together, and finding out solutions that are acceptable to all countries.  We have faced many challenges, when discussing standards for microbiological criteria or when dealing with the use of chemical interventions for the control of Salmonella sp. and Campylobacter sp. in poultry meat.  For the first we created a mentor/mentee pairing of countries with different level of expertise to resolve differences.  Not only did this result in better relationships between countries, it also resulted in a series of publications applicable to the whole world.  For the second, we were able to arrive at common terminology and use of substances that respects the need for an international standard and considers unique in-country consumer needs. 

Q. What has changed in that time?

A. I’ve seen the level of participation and technical knowledge increase across all countries.  The relevance of Codex documents has significantly increased.  Communications and relationships between countries have greatly increased.  

Q. What issues are you most looking forward to discussing at CCFH48?  

A. We will be updating the document that addresses HACCP (General Principles of Food Hygiene).  It is the core document for a lot of other guidelines.  We have not revised it in several decades.  To remain relevant and applicable, we must encourage every member country and observer group to contribute.

Q. This work has created wide interest with over 70 participants on the pilot platform. What is the importance of this work in your view?

A. This document is the source and reference for all other guideline documents drafted by CCFH.  It holds the principles, definitions, and interpretation that are then referenced in the rest of the documents.  Originally drafted before HACCP was developed worldwide as a concept for addressing food safety systems, this text needed revision to reflect new concepts, approaches, and risks that have been identified in the last couple decades.  We expect every country and observer to actively participate in this discussion because the result of this work will have ramifications for many other texts.

Q. How do you see the relationship between Codex and Observers at CCFH?

A. Codex is respected internationally for its openness, transparency, and inclusiveness.  Observers are part of the CCFH family in that they bring a unique point of view that, while not specific to a country, is applicable to better understanding of the issues.  Usually they also bring unique expertise that wouldn’t be readily available otherwise.

Q. How would you describe the importance of JEMRA to this committee to a new delegate?

A. CCFH couldn’t complete its mission without the JEMRA contributions.  Their expert and impartial advice is directly material to the accuracy of our texts.  JEMRA consolidates worldwide knowledge into an understandable risk interpretation. CCFH then, as a risk management body, can generate guidance documents that are useful to all countries and have a sound scientific basis.  JEMRA provides the scientific evidence for drafting guidelines. 

Q. What advice do you have for first time delegates?

A. Participate. They are at the meeting representing their country and while not all issues may be relevant to their situation, their contribution is unique and brings a different perspective.

The future of food hygiene

Q. What global food safety issues do you see on the horizon of relevance to the future work of the committee?

A. This one is hard to pinpoint. We are consuming new types of food, in new presentations, packaging, etc. We are also facing global challenges, including changing weather patterns and water shortages, that will affect the quality and type of food we have available. New food borne pathogens emerge and the pathogens themselves continually change. Antimicrobial resistance is not going to go away. Humans are living longer, have different dietary habits/needs, and travel the world within hours.  Food production itself changes every day.  The advances in gene manipulation and nanotechnology will certainly need to be addressed by Codex.  

Any one of these issues, food type, AMR, gene manipulation, and new food production practices will need to be addressed by Codex. CCFH, as a horizontal committee, will likely be the site of many discussions.  We actually look forward to an exciting time.


Working documents for CFH48

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