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UN commission adopts new limits on disease-causing contaminants in food

UN commission adopts new limits on disease-causing contaminants in food

Measures to keep cancer-causing and other toxic contaminants, such as led and cadmium, out of the human food chain have advanced a step further with the adoption of new limits by a United Nations commission that is the world’s highest body on food standards.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission, a joint venture of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN World Health Organization (WHO), which ended its latest session on 7 July, set new maximum allowable levels of a number of key contaminants and additives. These include lead in fish, which can cause a wide range of disorders, including anaemia and hepatic and neurological disorders, and cadmium in rice, marine bivalve molluscs and cephalopods, which can cause kidney damage.

The meeting also set new codes of practice for reducing aflatoxin contamination in Brazil nuts, and dioxin and dioxin-like PCB contamination in food and feed that will help countries take measures to protect consumers from exposure to these substances.

Codex also created a task force to address antimicrobial resistance in food of animal origin, developing risk assessment policies and strategies to reduce food safety risks associated with certain uses in animal production, including aquaculture. The incorrect use of antibiotics in animals can lead to drug resistance in infections in humans who eat their meat.

“This has been an extraordinarily productive session, attended by a record number of 110 countries and approximately 400 delegates,” Codex Commission Chairperson Claude Mosha of Tanzania said.

“We have passed a range of standards which will make a substantial difference in the safety and quality of the food people eat. In addition, people in developing countries will have the ability to earn better livings through trading these foods internationally,” he added.

Codex Alimentarius standards form the basis of food legislation in many countries and are recognized as international benchmarks by one of the multilateral agreements of the World Trade Organization (WTO).