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UN commission adopts dozens of new food standards

UN commission adopts dozens of new food standards

A United Nations commission that is the world’s highest body on food standards has adopted dozens of new and amended food standards and introduced measures to help countries establish their own regulations.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission – which was created in 1963 by the UN World Health Organization (WHO) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) – recently wrapped up its annual meeting which was attended by an unprecedented 133 countries this year.

Commission Secretary Kazuaki Miyagishima said additional regulations must be up to global standards. “It is important that the extra safety measures are taken using the same rigorous and internationally recognized principles, not only to protect consumers, but to ensure they are consistent with multilateral trade rules,” he said.

Both WHO and FAO lauded the efforts by Codex to prevent antimicrobial resistance in bacteria in food, and stated their readiness to support the Commission in the use of nanotechnology and the risk-benefit assessment of fish consumption, among other areas.

To raise funds for this new work, the two UN agencies launched the Global Initiative for Food related Scientific Advise, hoping to spur support among donors and civil society.

At the meeting, Codex also developed guidelines to reduce Salmonella and Campylobacter, which together cause a large proportion of food-borne diseases worldwide. If dealt with efficiently, hundreds of thousands of cases of such disease could be prevented yearly.

For the first time, two emerging developing countries – Brazil and Malaysia – stated their intention to contribute to the Codex Trust fund, which helps other developing countries to participate in the Commission’s meetings.

The two countries’ contribution is the first example of developing economies supplying support to others in the realm of food safety.

“Hopefully this example will lead several more major emerging economies to follow suit enabling a more efficient global food safety system,” said WHO’s Jorgen Schlundt.

Codex codes adopted this year include a measure reducing contamination of Ochratoxin A, which is toxic to the kidneys, in wines; a revised standard for infant formulae, including those for special medical purposes to save babies’ lives; and a revised code of hygiene for eggs and egg products to protect people from bacteria such as Salmonella Enteritidis.

The next meeting will begin on 30 June, 2008, in Geneva, Switzerland.