|Delegate's Report of the 65th Session of the Codex Executive Committee, June 28-July 1, 2011 and
34th Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, July 4-9, 2011, Geneva, Switzerland
Codex Commission Meeting
The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC)
meeting was attended by 145 member countries, 9 international governmental organizations, and 28
international non-governmental organizations. The United States delegation was led by U.S. Department
of Agriculture Deputy Under Secretaries Brian Ronholm and Darci Vetter.
Although the Commission adopted an array of important standards and guidance, the United
States was disappointed in the failure to adopt a maximum residue limit for the veterinary drug
ractopamine, which has been before the CAC since 2009. For the first time, the CAC voted on
the matter, although the decision to retain the standard at Step 8 occurred on a procedural vote
and not on a vote to adopt the MRL. Debate on the MRL began mid-morning on Tuesday July 5,
and concluded mid-morning on Wednesday with a 59-68 vote against conducting a vote on
adoption of the MRL. Had that vote been favorable, the CAC would have next voted on
adoption of the MRLs. Previously, the delegates had voted 63-54 in favor of conducting the
votes by secret ballot. The CAC action means that the MRL remains at Step 8 and can be taken
up in future CAC meetings. During the lengthy debate on the issue, support for adoption of the
MRLs was voiced by much of North America, South America, Africa, and the Southwest
Pacific, as well as a number of Asian countries. Opposition was primarily from Europe and
Mr. Sanjay Dave of India is the newly elected chair of the Codex Commission; he had no
opposition. Newly elected vice chairs are: Dr. Samuel Godefroy of Canada, Mrs. Awilo
Ochieng Pernet of Switzerland, and Professor Samuel Sefa-Dedeh of Ghana. The vice chair
election took two ballots to eliminate candidates from Argentina and Indonesia.
The United States was re-elected to serve on the
Codex Executive Committee (CCExec) as the representative of North America.
Decisions on Standards
Over 40 standards, codes of practice, and related texts were adopted by the Commission
- Guidelines for Risk Analysis of Foodborne Antimicrobial Resistance
- Guideline for the Control of Campylobacter and Salmonella spp. in Chicken Meat.
- Compilation of Codex Texts Relevant to the Labeling of Foods Derived from Modern Biotechnology.
- Revision of the Guidelines on Nutritional Labeling: List of Nutrients that are always Declared
on a Voluntary or Mandatory Basis.
- Annex to the Guidelines on Nutrition Labeling: General Principles for Establishing Nutrient
Reference Values of Vitamins and Minerals for the General Population.
- Revision of the Recommended International Code of Hygienic Practice for Collecting,
Processing and Marketing of Natural Mineral Waters.
- Regional standards for edible sago flour and chili sauce (Asia), cilantro coyote and lucuma
(Latin America), and harissa and halwa tehenia (Near East).
- 193 additive provisions in the General Standard on Food Additives.
- 381 Pesticide MRLs for 25 pesticides; 22 MRLs for 3 pesticides were advanced in the Codex
- Veterinary drug MRLs for narasin in pigs and tilmicosin in chickens and turkeys.
In other action, the CAC:
- Revised the Terms of Reference for the
Codex Committee on Processed Fruits and Vegetables to include development of standards
for fruit and vegetable juices and nectars
in its scope of work. These products were included under the scope of a Codex ad hoc
task force that ended its work in 2005. The CAC dropped a phrase "and related
products" after many countries, including the United States, felt it broadened the scope
extensively to include, for example, fruit juice drinks containing very low amounts of
juice and flavored waters. Members indicated that extending the terms of reference to
include these products was not necessary as these products were extremely varied, that
development of a Codex standard would be difficult, that the product area changes
rapidly due to consumer demands and advancing technology, and that there appeared to
be no trade impediments at present.
Significant discussion occurred with respect to several standards proposed for adoption:
- Proposed Draft Maximum Levels for Melamine in Liquid Infant Formula were returned
Committee on Contaminants in Foods for further consideration after several
countries objected to adoption because of a footnote that permitted a higher ML if it
resulted from migration from the packaging material.
- A Code of Practice for the Storage and Transport of Edible Oils in Bulk: Criteria to
Assess the Acceptability of Substances for Inclusion in a List of Acceptable Cargoes was
adopted along with lists of acceptable previous cargoes. However, many countries,
including the United States, expressed the view that there was no consensus on the lists of
previous acceptable cargos, that many of the substances had not been evaluated by the
FAO/WHO Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), that the Codex
guideline providing criteria for the assessment of previous cargos was sufficient. In
adopting the lists, the CAC directed the
Committee on Fats and Oils to take up as an
immediate priority a review of the substances against the criteria, taking into account the
limitations of JECFA resources and the availability of data.
- The use of certain food additives (colorants) in fish glaze and pasta. Concerns were
expressed by some countries on the use of carotenoids in fish glaze and, specifically, on a
footnote ("for use in glazes, coatings or decorations for fruit, vegetables, meat or fish")
since they felt that the use would be deceptive to consumers. The United States and other
countries supported the footnote and noted that CCExec recommended that "the GSFA should be
the single authoritative reference point for food additives and this should be
made clear in all commodity standards." The CAC adopted the food additive provision
without the footnote, and the United States and Australia entered reservations to this
- A similar discussion occurred with respect to the use of beta-carotenoids in pasta with the
European Commission, EU Member States, and others objecting to the permitted use of
these food additives in certain pasta products. The Commission adopted the provisions
for beta-carotenoids, limiting use of these colorants to noodles.
- Considered the relationship of the
Codex Committee on Fresh Fruits and Vegetables with
respect to the UNECE Working Party on Agricultural Quality Standards in order to help
resolve their somewhat competing approach to establishing fresh fruit and vegetable
- Recommended that the Committee on Fresh Fruits consider its Terms of Reference as
they relate to consultation with the UNECE Working Party on Agricultural Quality
Standards. A statement from the EU indicated its position that the goal of the
consultation process between Codex and UNECE should be harmonization of standards,
and not necessarily identical standards. The Committee Chair requested the Codex
Secretariat to prepare a background document on the history and linkages between the
Committee and the UNECE.
- The CAC approved new work proposed by the
Committee on Food Hygiene on "Guidelines for Control of Specific Zoonotic Parasites in Meat:
Trichinella spiralis and C. bovis." The United States did not support the proposal
in either the CCExec or at the Commission meeting arguing that the parasites were not significant public health
concerns, that OIE-referenced documents were not completed making it difficult to agree
to them, and that Codex should delay any work until the OIE had completed its work on
Trichinella. The United States supported a broader guidance document covering
foodborne parasites in general. In response to the U.S. interventions, the Commission
recommended that the work be risk-based, reviewed against the prioritization of parasites
prepared by the FAO and WHO, and that the Committee monitor the work of the OIE to
ensure that there is no duplication. During the CAC meeting, the EU representative
indicated interest in making this guidance a joint standard with the OIE. The United
States has in the past opposed joint standards between Codex and the OIE because of
differences in mission and operating procedures and, instead, supports collaboration
between the two organizations on documents such as this one.
- Durian was proposed by CCAsia as a regional standard, but the CAC assigned it to the
Committee on Fresh Fruits and Vegetables for development as an international standard.
- The CAC approved work on new regional standards for fresh fungus chanterelle and
ayran (Europe) and tempe and laver products (Asia).
Processed Cheese Standard
The CAC noted the difficulty associated with the processed cheese standard, which had been
under discussion in the
Milk and Milk Products Committee for approximately 16 years. The last
Session of the CAC, unable to reach agreement on discontinuation of work, had requested the
regional coordinating committees to discuss the necessity and scope of the standard. The results
were split with some regions favoring a standard and others favoring discontinuation. During
this year’s meeting, many countries, particularly some developing countries, continued to
express a need for the standard. The United States and others supported discontinuation of work.
The Committee Chair from New Zealand argued that the commodity did not lend itself to
standardization and suggested that members should consider a narrower scope if they wanted to
continue work. After a fair amount of discussion in both CCExec and the Commission meeting,
it was agreed to suspend a decision on discontinuing work on the standard until the next CAC
session. In the meantime, the Codex Secretariat will seek information from Codex members on
questions regarding scope, content, technical specifications, and trade impediments. An analysis
of the information will be provided to the next meetings of CCExec and the CAC.
Codex Executive Committee Meeting
Prior to the CAC meeting, the 65th Session of the
Codex Executive Committee met in Geneva June 28-July 1. The United States is a member of
CCExec as the elected representative from North America, and was represented by Karen Stuck,
U.S. Manager for Codex with Michael Wehr, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and Samuel Godefroy,
Health Canada, serving as advisors. CCExec carries out the critical review of Codex’s
standards-setting work and is also responsible for development and implementation of the strategic
plan and provision of guidance and recommendations on Codex budget and operations.
The CCExec reviewed the status of the current Codex Strategic Plan for 2008-2013, primarily
simply taking note of the status of the various work items included in the plan.
Significant time was spent discussing the Strategic Plan for 2014-2019. CCExec agreed to take a
more dynamic approach to the Plan, including a clear forward-looking vision statement for
Codex, and creating a document that can be used to explain: the importance of Codex as the
premier international food standards-setting body; why Codex is crucial to international food
safety/consumer protection; the importance of harmonized science-based standards-setting; the
need to serve all countries both developed and developing; the need for fiscal soundness and
sound work management; and the need for strong coordination with other international foodrelated
The Committee agreed that North America would take the lead preparing an initial draft of a
2014-2019 Codex Strategic Plan that would be circulated to the CCExec for comment and
further development by the Committee and subsequently submitted to the Commission for
review and comment.
Codex Finances and Budget
The Codex Secretariat presented the 2012-2013 proposed budget noting that the total budget is
virtually the same as that for 2010-2011. CCExec agreed to hold only one mid-term meeting just
prior to the CAC meetings, which was deemed sufficient and would provide substantial savings.
CCExec also reviewed the budget and finances for the provision of FAO/WHO scientific advice
Codex Trust Fund
CCExec considered a number of recommendations arising from the recently completed
evaluation of the Codex Trust Fund (CTF). The Committee recommended continuing to focus
on Objective 1–participation of developing countries in the work of Codex. Regarding this
Objective, CCExec recommended that more flexibility be given to countries that are "graduates"
of the CTF (countries whose national economic level places them above lesser developed
countries but still substantially lower than developed countries) to continue to receive support
under certain criteria, recognizing that essentially all developing countries continue to find it
financially difficult to participate in Codex. The Committee also noted the importance of
sustainability including proper meeting selection for CTF participants, and training (including
mentoring) to increase the ability of developing country participants to effectively engage in the
work of Codex. CCExec also supported work at a modest level relating to the other two
Objectives of the CTF–capacity building with respect to Codex capabilities and participation in
the scientific work supporting Codex standards-setting.
Other CCExec actions:
- Recommended to FAO/WHO that three international non-governmental organizations be
approved as Codex Observers: the European Chilled Food Federation; Safe Supply of
Affordable Food Everywhere; and, the European Association of Polyol Producers.
- Discussed options for physical working groups and requested the
Codex Committee on General Principles to consider new options for physical working groups to attempt to resolve
issues associated with their large size and relative lack of developing country participation.
- Considered enhanced uses of IT systems to assist in implementing electronic working
groups, with the Codex Secretariat to prepare a paper on systems which could be used via
web-based platforms and related processes.
- Supported the continuation of the Codex committee chairpersons retreat as a helpful means
of discussing issues related to managing Codex committee meetings and improving the
capabilities of Codex committee chairs.
The next meeting of the Codex Commission will be held July 2-7, 2012, in Rome, Italy.
July 13, 2011