UN commission seeks to ensure food safety, protect consumer health
A United Nations commission that is the highest international body on food standards has begun examining new measures to ensure safer infant powdered formula and hygienic egg production in a bid to improve food quality and safeguard consumer health.
Representatives from more than 100 countries and numerous non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are meeting in Geneva this week for the annual session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a joint venture of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN World Health Organization (WHO).
The Commission, which runs until 7 July, will be examining the 1981 standard on infant formula, which was based on scientific knowledge from the 1970s. The revised standard is based on the latest scientific understanding of the composition of breast milk.
“It is important to support breastfeeding and promote its benefits to infants and young children,” said Dr. Jorgen Schlundt, Director of the WHO department of Food Safety, Zoonoses and Food-Borne Diseases, adding that in cases when breastfeeding is “either not possible or not appropriate,” powdered formula is a dietary option.
But he warned that powdered infant formula is not a sterile product and can be contaminated with life threatening bacteria. “It is extremely important that these formulae are safe and properly labelled,” he stressed. “The proposed standard will help save many infant lives in countries around the world.”
The Commission will also be looking at a revised code of hygienic practice for eggs and egg products.
While a major source of food in all countries, eggs and egg products are a significant contributor to salmonellosis, a major food borne disease. Adoption of the revised code will improve safety, FAO said.
Among other items on the agenda of the meeting is a draft code to prevent or reduce Ochratoxin, a contaminant in wine that is known to be toxic to the kidneys, as well as new quality standards for three food products from the Middle East – canned tehina, a sesame seed paste; hummus with tehina, a sesame seed and chickpea mixture; and canned ful medammes, a popular bean dish.