Codex Alimentarius is a driving force for ensuring food safety and trade standards during COVID-19, says FAO Director-General

Virtual 43rd session of the international body set to approve new guidelines and practices

24 September 2020, Rome - The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), QU Dongyu, today praised the work of the Codex Alimentarius Commission as a driving force for ensuring international food safety and trade standards, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Director-General opened the 43rd session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the United Nations body established by FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO) to protect consumer health and ensure fair practices in international food trade. 

"Especially in the time of COVID-19, the world needs the international Codex standards that allow us to keep our food traveling safely across borders,'' QU stressed. ‘'The last thing we need, in this already fragile situation, is an outbreak of a food borne disease.‘'

In this context, the Director-General congratulated the Commission on how it has coped with the COVID-19 pandemic, producing guidance for governments, the food industry and consumers together with experts from FAO and WHO.

In his speech, the Director-General also emphasised the importance of working together with Members, international organizations, civil society and the private sector to strengthen Codex. He noted that Codex standards and guidelines should always evolve to be more efficient, effective and tangible for farmers and consumers, as well as provide valuable guidance for governments and the food industry.

He also praised Codex's commitment to develop their work based on science and evidence and encouraged the Commission "to explore the power of innovation and digital technology to continue your important work," highlighting that Codex standards require a steady flow of real time data and information.

‘'As the pandemic evolves, we must ensure that trade continues to flow smoothly to contribute to food security and nutrition globally,'' Qu said.

As examples of FAO's recent modernization, the Director-General cited FAO's Hand-in-Hand initiative and the proposed International Platform for Digital Food and Agriculture - an inclusive multi-stakeholder forum for identifying and discussing the potential benefits and risks of digitalization in the food and agricultural sectors.

‘'Digitalization is one area where FAO is well ahead of the curve and we are working relentlessly to harness the potential of modern technology for all those involved in food and agriculture,'' he noted.

Furthermore, the Director-General reinforced FAO's commitment to strengthen the work of Codex: "One of my first decisions in FAO was to allocate more funds to the FAO/WHO Scientific Advice Programme, which is the basis for Codex standards. That work is imperative and without it, Codex would be imparied we cannot let that happen." Qu also gave the example of his home country China to highlight how "prioritizing Codex activities locally allows countries to build national systems and provides them a voice on the global stage."

The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, also noted how the pandemic  had highlighted the fragile links between the health of humans, animals and the planet.  He emphasized the importance of collaborating with FAO on improving food safety standards and support.


Established in 1963 by FAO and WHO, the Codex Alimentarius Commission has 189 Members and 237 Observers. It meets annually to adopt food safety and quality standards and related recommendations.

The current session is being held virtually for the first time from 24 to 26 September 2020 and on 12 and 19 October 2020. 

The virtual meeting will include decisions on General Principles of Food Hygiene; A Code of Practice on food allergen management and food standards for garlic, kiwifruit, cassava-based products, mixed zaatar, chili sauce and kava. It will also consider guidelines for supporting the development of harmonized food laws in Africa and others on the safe use and reuse of water in food production. 

Photo: ©FAO/
FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu, addresses the Codex Alimentarius Commission's virtual 43rd session.