Interview with Awilo Ochieng Pernet, Chairperson of the Codex Alimentarius Commission

38th session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission taking place 6-11 July 2015 in Geneva, Switzerland

Awilo Ochieng Pernet, is the Chairperson of the Codex Alimentarius Commission and a senior food safety official in Switzerland. She holds a law degree, a post-graduate certificate in human nutrition and a master of science degree in food regulatory affairs. As the 38th session of the Commission got underway in Geneva (Switzerland) she gave her views on Codex and shared her expectations for the week.

QUESTION: What changes have you seen in Codex since you became involved?

Mme Ochieng Pernet: I started working with Codex in 1999 and the major change has been the increased participation of developing countries. We're now without doubt a global organization developing internationally harmonized food standards. It is one of my priorities that the new countries participate effectively in the work of Codex both at the regional and international level.

Q. What do you see as the highlights of the Commission this week?

Mme Ochieng Pernet: I am extremely pleased that we have over 40 draft standards on the agenda for adoption at various stages in the Codex process and there will be over 20 proposals for new work. It is also important that we review the way our organization works through our work management and communication strategy discussions.

Another highlight without doubt is the Codex Trust Fund Successor Initiative which proposes to provide tailored support to eligible developing countries, support to Codex capacity development and support to enhancing countries' scientific input to Codex.

I firmly believe that the FAO/WHO Regional Coordinating Committees can also contribute to enhancing Codex capacity in their respective regions and also thanks to their local and regional networks, inform FAO, WHO and Codex about important emerging issues related to food safety, consumer health protection and the food trade.

Q. What is important to you in Codex?

Mme Ochieng Pernet: I have deep respect for our core values of consensus building, collaboration, inclusiveness and transparency as we develop international food standards in order to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in the food trade in the whole world. Let us remember that we are all consumers. These values should guide us as we strive to ensure safe, good food for all.

I believe in constructive dialogue and in working with all 186 Codex Members in a framework of trust. With that trust, we can strive for ever greater understanding and consensus in Codex.

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Photo: ©WFO
Awilo Ochieng Pernet.