Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Codex Alimentarius Commission "Codex" Gains More Control Of Global Food Supply

The Codex Alimentarius Commission "Codex" Gains More Control Of Global Food Supply

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The Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex) is the international food standards setting body recognised under the World Trade Organisation Agreements on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS) and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) as being the reference point for food standards applied in international trade. Its objectives are protecting the health of consumers and ensuring fair practices in food trade.

Australia’s Codex contact point, Codex Australia, is housed within the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF). HAL works with staff in Codex Australia and other areas in DAFF to provide input into the development of Codex fruit and vegetable standards. HAL is involved in this process to provide technical assistance to DAFF on the detail of standards in development and because Codex standards are used by inspection agencies in some of our export markets.

The Codex Committee for Fresh Fruit and Vegetables (CCFFV) met in May in Mexico City to progress a number of international standards of interest to Australia. These included apples, tomatoes and bitter cassava and the Standard Layout for all Codex fruit and vegetable standards. Standards for oranges and table grapes have recently been completed and new work proposed for CCFFV includes a revision of the standard for avocados and new work on durian, tree tomato and chilli peppers.

Progress with these standards is slow, partly because there are representatives of over 40 countries with their own perspectives on what the standards should and should not contain, so gaining consensus is often an exhaustive process, and partly because the committee only meets every 18 months, although there can be product-specific working group meetings between sessions.

The following were achievements of note at the recent CCFFV meeting:

* The apple standard has progressed to Step 5 in the Codex 8-Step process on the back of: agreement to include a draft provision for ‘firmness’ in the Minimum Requirements; an appreciation that location, climate and production practices make classifying varieties according to colour very difficult and potentially misleading, so this provision is now open to further debate; a minimum Brix level of 10.5º or 12.0º was not agreed for small apples between 50 and 60 mm diameter but is open to debate; and the section on presentation was deleted while the related section on uniformity were unable to be agreed. Electronic Working Group and physical Working Group meetings are intended to take place to seek agreement to on these issues before the next CCFFV session in October 2009.
* After reaching agreement on the sizing provisions and minor consequential amendments to other parts of the text, the Committee agreed to forward the draft Standard for Tomatoes to the 31st Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) for final adoption (Step 8).
* After agreeing to sections related to the level of cyanogenic glycosides necessary to differentiate bitter from sweet cassava; inclusion of an amendment to indicate that bitter cassava should be fully cooked and that the water used for rinsing and cooking should be discarded after use; and addition of a footnote to indicate that information on preparation practices needs to be provided at point of retail sale for unpackaged bitter cassava, the Committee forwarded the proposed draft Standard for Bitter Cassava to the Codex Alimentarius Commission for final adoption.

For further information and the full report of the CCFFV, please contact http://www.codexalimentarius.net/web/archives.jsp?lang=en. For information on Codex Australia, please contact http://www.daff.gov.au/agriculture-food/codex.

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