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Codex Alimentarius Commission: 08-12 July 2019

Live updates of decisions being taken at the ongoing 42nd Session in Geneva, Switzerland

The United Nations food standards body Codex Alimentarius Commission is meeting in Geneva from 08 to 12 July 2019 to adopt food safety and quality standards.

Charged with protecting consumer health and ensuring fair practices in the food trade, the Codex Alimentarius is a joint initiative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Decisions taken at the 42nd session of the Commission will be published below as they are made.

For more information on the upcoming Codex session, visit the links listed at right.

Codex Strategic Plan 2020-2025

AGREED – 10 July 2019

The Codex Alimentarius Commission has adopted its strategic plan for the period 2020-2025.  The strategic plan provides high level guidance and direction to the work of the CAC.  It builds on the current document and continues to emphasise the importance of addressing critical and emerging issues, underpinning standards with risk analysis and scientific evidence and promoting and facilitating participation of all Members in its standard setting work. 

The plan contains a new goal focussing on the use and impact of Codex standards which aims to raise awareness and explore how the use and impact of Codex standards could be measured and how standards could be better tailored to Members’ needs. Implementation plans will be discussed at the FAO/WHO Coordinating Committees which will meet in the six Codex regions between September and November 2019.  

New work on development of guidelines for the control of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) in beef meat, leafy greens, raw milk and cheese produced from raw milk, and sprouts

AGREED - 9 July 2019

The Codex Alimentarius Commission has adopted new work on the development of guidelines for the control of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) in beef meat, leafy greens, raw milk and cheese produced from raw milk, and sprouts (sprouted seeds). STEC are an important cause of foodborne disease, and infections have been associated with a range of illnesses from mild diarrhoea to kidney failure. The Codex Committee on Food Hygiene will develop the guideline to support risk management for STEC in these commodities.

New work on allergen labelling

AGREED - 9 July 2019

Declaration of foods or ingredients known to cause hypersensitivity (referred to as allergen labelling) is intended to provide consumers with access to clear and accurate information on the presence of allergens (or substances) in foods, so that they can make safe food choices. This is particularly significant given the potential life-threatening consequences for food allergic individuals, and as the prevalence of conditions is increasing in many parts of the world. 

Given the serious nature of food allergies and their health consequences, and the increasing complexity of the food supply chain, this new work will supplement the current allergen labelling provisions in the General Standard for Labelling of Pre-packaged Foods. It will provide more detail for industry on how allergens should be presented on food labels to ensure consumer protection and promote harmonization of allergen labelling.

This new work also complements the recent work by the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene (CCFH) on a draft Code of Practice on Food Allergen Management for Food Business Operators which provides guidance on allergen management throughout the food chain and promotes the inclusion of allergen management practices as part of good hygiene practices (GHPs), and, where appropriate, HACCP systems, in manufacturing, retail and food service.

New work on internet sales/e-commerce

AGREED - 9 July 2019

The way in which food is traded and sold directly to consumers in changing with internet/ e-commerce emerging globally as a new platform for selling food. This presents new challenges in terms of the way information on the quality and safety of foods is provided to customers.  Currently there is a lack of standardised guidance for the labelling of food sold via internet sales/e-commerce which raises significant issues pertaining to health, food safety, and the protection of fair practices in the food trade. While some countries have adopted regulations specifically related to e-commerce, the growth of this platform and its transboundary nature means that it is important that some consistency is maintained at a global level to ensure that consumers are protected and impediments to trade that may arise from different approaches are minimized.  In line with its Strategic Plan to address emerging issues, the Commission agreed to address this topical issue by undertaking new work on the labelling of food sold through internet sales/e-commerce. This new text will be supplementary to the General Standard for the Labelling of Prepackaged Foods

Guidelines for compounds of low public health concern that could be exempted from the establishment of Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs).

AGREED - 9 July 2019

As a result of growing public health concern expressed by scientific bodies, consumers, consumer health organizations and risk management agencies worldwide, the global regulatory scenario for pesticides of chemical origin is imposing increasing restrictions on this type of product. However, increasingly other types of plant protection products are becoming available, for example biopesticides.  The market for biopesticides has grown between 12 and 17 percent per year during the last 5 years, representing a growth two to three times faster than the market of chemical pesticides and non-chemical and biological control tools are playing an increasingly important role in the implementation of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approaches.  While these products are generally of low public health concern, it is nevertheless important that there are international standards to ensure their safe use. This new work aims to establish guidelines to harmonize the concepts and criteria for the recognition of pesticides that are of low public health concern and could be considered exempt from the establishment of Codex MRLs.

Establishment of maximum levels for aflatoxins in certain cereals and cereal-based products, including food for infants and young children

AGREED - 9 July 2019

Global consumption of cereal and cereal-based products is high.  Any level of aflatoxin contamination in these products could significantly contribute to total aflatoxin exposure.  Aflatoxins are genotoxic human liver carcinogens, and among the most potent mutagenic and carcinogenic substances known. Hepatitis B virus has been shown to be a critical contributor to the potency of aflatoxins in inducing liver cancer, with aflatoxin potency being 30 times higher in carriers of hepatitis B virus than in non-carriers.   Currently, there is no Codex maximum level (ML) for aflatoxins in cereal and cereal-based products. This new work will focus on the establishment of MLs for maize grain destined for further processing and flour, meal, semolina and flakes derived from maize; husked and polished rice; cereal-based food for infants and young children and sorghum.  Such MLs could greatly contribute to a reduction in dietary exposure to aflatoxins. 

Draft Guidelines for rapid risk analysis following instances of detection of contaminants in food where there is no regulatory level

AGREED - 9 July 2019

The detection of chemical contaminants in foods where there is no regulatory level is increasing due to both the diversity of the food supply and the continuing advancement of analytical capabilities. Risk managers must respond to such detections in a manner that is adequately protective of public health and at the same time considers trade equity. The new guideline provides an approach to assist governments in rapid risk analysis of instances of detection of chemical contaminants in food where there is no regulatory level. By applying the rapid risk analysis approach the authorities can adequately protect public health while supporting food security and minimising food waste. 

Code of practice for the reduction of 3- monochloropropane1,2-diol esters (3- MCPDEs) and glycidyl esters (GEs)

AGREED – 9 July 2019

The Codex Code of Practice for the reduction of 3-monochloropropane-1,2-diol esters (3-MCPDEs) and glycidyl esters (GEs) in refined oils and food products made with refined oils will promote Good Manufacturing Practices to help reduce the production of such contaminants to safe levels. Consumers will continue to benefit from the good properties of these oils and developing countries can still count on an important item for trade and economic growth while protecting public health. 

Maximum limits for pesticide residues in food

AGREED - 9 July 2019

The Codex Alimentarius Commission has adopted maximum residue limits (MRLs) for more than 30 different pesticides in various foods, including crops (barley, rye, and rice), vegetables (garlic, cucumber and peas), fruits (banana, orange and grape) and animal products (milk, eggs and poultry). It has been a significant achievement to translate the results of the FAO/WHO expert meetings on pesticide residues into Codex MRLs in less than a year.

Pesticides are chemicals used to kill insects, weeds and other pests to prevent them from damaging crops. Even when used in accordance with best practices, low levels of residues of pesticides can end up in food. The maximum limits aim to ensure pesticide residues do not harm people's health, and are based on risk assessments from the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR).

Alignment of food additives and full integration into the General Standard for Food Additives (GSFA)

AGREED - 9 July 2019

Compromise reached at the Codex Committee on Food Additives (CCFA) has given the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) the opportunity to recognise geographical variations in the use of food additives while agreeing global standards for their safety. 

There are 27 functional classes for food additives including: preservatives, which prolong the shelf-life of a food by protecting against deterioration caused by microorganisms; antioxidants, which prolong the shelf-life of foods by protecting against deterioration caused by oxidation; stabilizers, which make it possible to maintain a uniform dispersion of two or more components; and colours, which add or restore colour in a food among others. The safety of food additives is evaluated by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). The CAC agreed that the use of Trisodium citrate in fluid milk should be reconsidered by CCFA.

Almond Oil, Flaxseed Oil, Hazelnut Oil, Pistachio Oil, and Walnut Oil,

AGREED - 8 July 2019

These oils are some of the oldest types of edible oil consumed by humankind and have been traditionally produced and consumed in Middle Eastern countries, Africa, Europe and South America. The oils are sought as healthy options due to their essential fatty acid and micronutrient content. This standard sets quality and as well as food safety criteria for these edible oils to facilitate international trade.

Palm oil with a higher content of Oleic acid (OXG)

AGREED - 8 July 2019

Over the last 20 years, global production and consumption of vegetable oils has increased significantly. This growth has been accompanied by a demand for healthier oils as well as oils that retain their quality for longer, such as palm oil. Several countries have developed hybrids between the American oil palm, Elaeis oleifera, and the African oil palm, Elaeis guineensis. The palm oil extracted from the fruits of these hybrids has a higher oleic acid content recognized for its nutritional benefits. Palm oil with a higher content of oleic acid (OXG) will be added to the Standard for Named Vegetable Oils (CXS 210-1999).

Standard for dried or dehydrated garlic

AGREED - 8 July 2019

With over 110 common spices it would be challenging to develop Codex standards for them all. Many spices and culinary herbs have common characteristics and similar quality profiles. The Codex Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs (CCSCH) took a decision in 2017 to elaborate groups of standards by plant parts (as used in the spices and culinary herbs industry) to ease the development of quality specifications by eliminating duplication and thereby facilitating the work of competent authorities and regulators.

The Standard for dried or dehydrated garlic is an example of a grouping from the Dried Roots, Rhizomes and Bulbs category and applies to garlic in dried or dehydrated form, for direct consumption, as an ingredient in food processing, or for repacking if required. This standard does not apply to the product when intended for industrial processing. Codex commodity standards contain the essential composition and quality of products in response to the Codex dual mandate to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in the food trade.

Related links:

·Relevant Codex Document (REP19/SCH para 40).

Photo: ©FAO/Giulio Napolitano
Comprising 188 members and the European Union, the Codex Alimentarius Commission meets annually to examine food safety and quality standards and other recommendations for food.