The Codex Alimentarius Commission1 is a subsidiary body of the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization. It was established to formulate internationally accepted food safety standards with the aim of protecting the consumer's health and ensuring fair trade practices. The Commission is composed of 143 member countries.
1Codex alimentarius is a Latin expression meaning "food code" or "food law".
39TH SESSION OF THE EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE, GENEVA, 30 JUNE -3 JULY 1992
The Executive Committee of the Codex Alimentarius Commission is the Commission's main advisory body on the general orientation of Codex work. It meets almost every year, and in the years when the Commission does not meet it often studies proposals and recommendations with major implications for the future work of Codex and the way in which such work is to be carried out. The 39th Session was exceptional in the depth and breadth of the changes proposed for the way in which the Commission will carry out its mandate to protect the health of the consumer and facilitate international trade.
The Executive Committee was aware that following the Uruguay Round Codex would have greater responsibilities to update standards and other recommendations and to ensure the required revisions to facilitate international trade. The committee proposed that provisions be made for increased efforts to promote Codex recommendations in the post-Uruguay Round environment, so as to address problems arising from the misunderstanding or misinterpretation of Codex standards and their intent. It agreed that aspects of the Uruguay Round text regarding both sanitary and phytosanitary issues and technical barriers to trade should be included for discussion at the Codex Alimentarius Commission's next session.
The committee stressed that changes in the Statutes and Rules of Procedure which would be needed to allow membership of regional economic integration organizations in the Commission would have to be fair to members of the Commission that were not member countries of these organizations, especially developing countries, and that there was a heed to examine closely any proposed changes. A detailed working paper was prepared for the 10th Session of the Codex Committee on General Principles held in Paris in September 1992.
The Executive Committee rejected a proposal that Codex standards be elaborated by a system of voting by correspondence. It expressed the view that as an elected body representing all of the member countries of the Commission through the regional representatives, it was entirely appropriate that it should have the authority to advance standards at Step 5, subject to the confirmation of the Commission.
The Executive Committee stressed the importance of accelerating the procedure whereby standards and other recommendations are developed, especially in response to the demands that would be placed on the Commission as a result of the completion of the Uruguay Round. It requested that the Codex Committee on General Principles devise means to improve the procedure by which Codex texts are elaborated so as to meet these demands; the Codex secretariat has since issued a paper for the Committee on General Principles encouraging the use of a "fast-track" system.
The Executive Committee also recommended that the Codex Alimentarius Commission adopt a new Medium-Term Plan to help streamline its work and to ensure that programme targets be met.
Code of ethics for international trade in food
The committee did not support the inclusion of a prior informed consent clause into the Code of ethics for international trade in food. It welcomed the idea that the Code of ethics should be made more available to industry and the food trade and encouraged its use in these sectors. The Code of ethics is now published as a separate booklet in the Codex Series and is available upon request.
The Executive Committee requested that a proposed draft Code of hygienic practice on street foods prepared by the Codex Regional Coordinating Committee for Asia and a WHO draft document Essential safety requirements for street-vended foods be submitted to the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene for consideration. It requested that FAO and WHO work closely together on this important work, which has major implications for food trade from developing countries.
Halal meat products
In view of the specialized nature of the trade In Halal meat and related products, and the need to protect both the producer/exporter and the consumer, the Executive Committee referred the matter to the Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems for consideration, with a view to presenting a work proposal to the next session of the Commission.
Additives and contaminants
The committee requested that FAO and WHO seek the necessary funds so that a proposed expert consultation on sampling plans for aflatoxins may be held as soon as possible.
The Executive Committee strongly urged the Codex Committee on Food Additives and Contaminants to concentrate on the elaboration of maximum levels for contaminants in foods moving in international trade, giving priority to those contaminants that give the greatest problem in trade and for which it could be shown that the establishment of levels is required to protect the consumer. The committee expressed concern that in setting guideline levels or other limits for a wide range of naturally occurring toxins in foods, the Codex Committee on Food Additives and Contaminants may inadvertently encourage countries to create unnecessary technical barriers to trade, for example by creating a need for expensive testing and certification. The committee recommended that this point be taken into consideration and that limits be established only when a health hazard is identified.
The committee approved the elaboration of 14 new texts and revisions at Step 3 of the Codex Procedure. Finally, it endorsed the Draft Provisional Agenda for the 20th Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, with the addition of certain items.
NEW CODEX ALIMENTARIUS PUBLICATIONS
The following four publications are available from FAO Distribution and Sales Section, Viale delle Terme di Caracalla, 00100 Rome, Italy.
Code of ethics for international trade in food
This brief code (which includes ten articles) was developed to address the consideration that many countries, particularly developing countries, do not yet have adequate food control infrastructures to protect consumers against health hazards and fraud. The Codex Alimentarius Commission adopted the code initially in 1979, and it was amended in 1985. It has been reissued as a trilingual publication to increase its accessibility to interested parties. (Available free of charge.)
Codex Alimentarius, Vol. 1 -General requirements. Second edition
This revised, 337-page volume contains all general requirements for food adopted by the Joint FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius Commission through July 1991. The Codex Alimentarius covers all the principal foods in their raw, semi-processed or processed states and considers hygiene, nutrition, food additives, pesticide residues, contaminants, labelling and methods of analysis and sampling. This is the first of 14 volumes in a series, (Available in English, French and Spanish. Price US$45.)
Codex Alimentarius, abridged version
This publication is a comprehensive collection of food standards and related information abridged and condensed from 27 volumes of standards, related recommendations and codes of good manufacturing and hygienic practices. It is printed in loose-leaf form in a sturdy binder to allow updating with replacement pages every two years, (Available in English, French and Spanish. Price US$100.)
Codex Alimentarius Computerized Information Series, Food and Nutrition 801: Maximum Residue Limits for pesticides in foods " Instruction manual
This data system provides information on all maximum residue limits for pesticides in foods adopted or under discussion by the Codex Alimentarius Commission. It covers pesticides, commodities and pesticide/commodity combinations, MS-DOS 3.3 or higher, a 3.5- or 5.25-inch floppy disk drive and hard disk space with 15 megabytes free are required to run the program. (At present available only in English; publication of French and Spanish versions is foreseen for 1993. Special introductory price, US$ 150. A 35 percent discount is available for developing countries.)
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