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CCNASWP16 / Steve Hathaway describes lessons learned for Codex from the COVID-19 pandemic


At the 16th session of the FAO/WHO Coordinating Committee for North America and the South West Pacific held from 30 January to 3 February 2023 in Nadi, Fiji,  Steve Hathaway, New Zealand, gave the keynote address on lessons learned from the COVID pandemic, which he said had “irrevocably changed international thinking on food control … [and] dramatically illustrated the importance of effective and science driven risk management by all sectors throughout the food chain.”

Hathaway went on to outline how the COVID pandemic can seed change in Codex beyond the role standards play in harmonizing international trade and providing greater guidance to national governments.

He said real world experiments like COVID had taught us a lot about how we need to approach the critical difference between a hazard and a risk when making risk management decisions. Codex guidelines now exist, for example, looking at very low levels of chemical residues and foods in consignments crossing borders where there is no regulatory limit. “A very practical, risk based proportionate response in Codex guidelines do not disrupt the food trade unnecessarily and unnecessarily contribute to food security, “ he said.

He also called on Codex to reach a greater level of clarity and offer more guidance on the notion of other legitimate factors and the extent to which they can be legitimately considered in terms of a food safety response, advocating for consistency across Codex in terms of different standards and guidelines.

On Codex’s “checkered history” in seeking to set maximum residue levels for hormone growth promoters, Hathaway said Codex needs to be able to deal efficiently and procedurally with these types of issues. More challenges may be on the way with new foods and novel foods that aren't really expected to be present in the food supply in some countries. “The stumbling block usually revolves around prohibition of the substance in question in national or federal legislation. And we need to be sure that as we move forward, both with current and critical review processes, we need to be explicit on this issue of national or federal legislation when we try and offer solutions.”


Learn more

CCNASWP16 meeting page including draft final report

Photo credit ©Ministry of Agriculture, Fiji

Steve Hathaway, New Zealand, delivering the keynote address.