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Updated 26 October 2015

Food safety standards in spotlight

Regulators have opened up a public debate on proposed international food safety standards on such issues as hygiene and labelling, ahead of a meeting by the Codex Alimentarius.

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The Codex Alimentarius is a global body set up by the Food and Agricultural Organisation and the World Health Organisation as a means of getting countries to adopt international food safety standards and other guidelines.

Agreements forged at the meeting could eventually affect the way processors operate worldwide as they become incorporated into national laws.

In a notice the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the US Department of Agriculture is calling for comment on the proposals, set out by various international committees beforehand.

The unit also wants recommendations for new standards, which will be considered at a public meeting, the afternoon of June 15.

Methods/standards considered

US representatives will carry the country's position to the full Codex Alimentarius Commission and executive committee, which is holding a major session from July 3 to July 8 in Geneva, Switzerland, to consider food safety methods and standards.

They will consider proposals setting safety priorities for setting standards on residues of veterinary drugs in foods and recommended maximum limits.

The committee on veterinary drugs met in Cancun, Mexico on May 8-12 this year, working on recommendations for maximum limits for Trichlorfon (metrifonate), Flumequine in black tiger shrimp, Pirlimycin, Cypermethrin and Alpha-cypermethrin, and Doramectin in cow's milk.

They will consider proposals on food additives and contaminants. These establish or endorse permitted maximum or guideline levels for individual food additives, contaminants, and naturally occurring toxicants in food and animal feed. The proposals would set out priority lists of food additives and contaminants for toxicological evaluation by a joint FAO and WHO expert committee.

Other proposals recommend specifications of the identity and purity for food additives, consider methods of analysis, and standards and codes for related subjects such as labelling and irradiation.

Proposals on pesticide residues would establish maximum limits for pesticide residues for specific food items or in groups of food. Codex limits on pesticide residues are primarily intended to apply to international trade. Country representatives will also consider a discussion paper on setting maximum residue limits for processed or ready-to-eat foods.

Food import and export considered

Draft guidelines have also been submitted for consideration by a codex committee on food import and export inspection and certification systems.

The committee dealt with mutual recognition of food inspection systems including agreements, and processes and procedures to ensure that sanitary measures are implemented. It also dealt with guidelines on food import control systems, product certification and information exchange.

In particular, Codex representatives will consider proposals on risk-based draft principles relating to product traceability throughout the food chain.

Other committees are proposing changes in the defining of risk analysis terms related to food safety, guidelines for the production, processing and labelling of organic foods, the general standard for labelling prepackaged, genetically modified products, and trans fatty acids.

Another committee has submitted proposals on food hygiene practices, including ones relating to controlling Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods, a code of practice for eggs and related products and microbiological risk management.

Since 1963, Codex has adopted over 200 commodity standards. Over this time, considerable diversity has arisen in the content and format of the food additive sections among these standards, according to documents released ahead of the meeting.

Source: Decision News Media

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