U.S. Codex News — Friday, February 11, 2011
A summary of recent and upcoming events published biweekly; direct inquiries to USCodex@fsis.usda.gov
Coordinating Committee for Africa (CCAfrica)
The 19th Session of CCAfrica met in Accra, February 1-4, under the chairmanship of Ghana, the regional coordinator. Highlights of the meeting included two issues referred by the 33rd Commission: (1) Considering the Impact of Private Standards - the Committee requested that the Commission establish a working group to provide a forum for countries to discuss the implications of private standards directly with private standard-setting organizations; and (2) The Necessity and Scope of a draft proposed standard for Processed Cheese: The Committee took the position that, if there is no international standard for processed cheese, then a regional standard would be necessary. Other significant outcomes included:
- Adopting regional positions for items on the agendas of the upcoming sessions of the Codex Committee on Contaminants in Foods (CCCF) and the Codex Committee on Pesticide Residues (CCPR). These regional positions were developed at the Pan African Meeting of National Codex Contact Points (see following news item) which preceded the CCAfrica session.
- Selecting Cameroon as the next regional coordinator (to be confirmed at the 34th Commission).
- Two candidates, one from Zambia and another from Ghana, declared an intention to run for election as Codex Vice Chair at 34th Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission.
Pan African Meeting of National Codex Contact Points took place in Accra, Ghana, January 27-29. The meeting was organized by the African Union's Inter-African Bureau on Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), which has a program for promoting more effective participation by African countries in the standard-setting work of Codex, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC). Considerable attention was given to establishing mechanisms for developing proposed regional African positions for issues on the agendas of Codex meetings. These mechanisms include:
- Conducting an expert working group, in conjunction with this contact point meeting, to draft proposed African regional positions for the upcoming meetings of CCCF and CCMAS;
- Establishing an expert working group to develop a single African position on GMO labeling within Codex;
- Planning additional expert meetings to develop regional positions for the Codex committee sessions on fish and fishery products (CCFFP), fresh fruits and vegetables (CCFFV) and food additives (CCFA);
- Deciding to select one African country to be the lead for each expert working group;
- Establishing a SPS Codex Secretariat in AU-IBAR, staffed by a permanent employee, to facilitate development of African regional positions for agenda items at Codex meetings; and
- Arranging for sub-regional economic communities (ECOWAS for west Africa, SADC for southern Africa) to coordinate Codex issues among their member countries in preparation for twice-yearly Pan-African meetings of Codex contact points to draft African regional position papers.
AU members were urged to review the operations of their SPS and Codex Contact Points, and consider whether merging these operations would facilitate coordination. AU-IBAR also agreed to host the CCAfrica website.
Also at the Pan Africa Codex Contact Point Meeting, all participating countries voiced concerns about private standards and the effects on small and medium enterprises because the high cost of audits and compliance create obstacles for market access. Participating countries declared support for seeking status in Codex for the African Union equivalent to the status of the European Union.
The 22nd Session of the Codex Committee on Fats & Oils (CCFO) will meet in Penang, Malaysia, February 21-25. The agenda features several key issues which have been discussed for years and may be discontinued if consensus is not reached at this session: Revising the Code of Practice for the Storage & Transport of Edible Oils & Fats in Bulk - the United States has concerns about the practicality of creating and maintaining lists of acceptable previous cargoes; the U.S. prefers establishing performance-based criteria. Consensus has also eluded the Committee since 2001 on a proposed draft amendment that would set at less than 1.5% the level of linolenic acid, an essential composition factor in the Standard for Olive Oils and Olive Pomace Oils. Two proposals set the level at 0.0-1.0%. The United States believes that 1.5% correctly represents naturally occurring global variations of linolenic acid in olive cultivars, and would support 1.2% to achieve consensus. As for new work, the agenda features a proposal from the United States to amend the Codex Standard for Named Vegetable Oils to include high oleic soyabean oil. International trade in this oil has increased and the rising trend is expected to continue because it offers improved functional benefits for consumers and the food processing industry.
Upcoming Outreach Events
The U.S. Codex Office and U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service will host the African Codex Delegates Colloquium in Accra, Ghana, February 14-16. U.S. Delegates from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are also participating in this event to encourage greater cooperation among African delegates; enhance the exchange of views between African and U.S. delegates; devise strategies for advancing common interests in Codex; and establish relationships for collaboration over the long term. In addition to roundtable discussions on four upcoming committee sessions on food additives (CCFA), contaminants (CCCF), pesticide residues (CCPR) and labeling (CCFL), the colloquium will feature presentations that describe the "other legitimate factors" in Codex, the important of science-based decision-making, the relationship between Codex and the WTO agreements, and the issues that present obstacles to consensus.
Recent Public Meetings
Committee on Methods of Analysis & Sampling (CCMAS)
The public meeting for the upcoming 32nd Session CCMAS took place on February 9. U.S. Delegate Gregory Diachenko and Gregory Noonan, both of FDA/Center for Food Safety & Applied Nutrition, explained the draft U.S. positions. In response to questions on the Proposed Revision of the Guidelines on Measurement of Uncertainty, Dr. Diachenko described the objective to include an explanatory note that is intended for a broader audience rather than just the analytical community. On the agenda items about the Use of Proprietary Methods, Dr. Diachenko explained that, because such methods are used in Codex, it would be beneficial for CCMAS to determine and develop consistent procedures for assessing and endorsing these methods, especially in consideration that the owner of the method may someday make changes to the method. The committee will meet March 7-11 in Budapest, Hungary.
Committee on Fats & Oils (CCFO)
The public meeting for the upcoming 22nd Session of CCFO took place on February 9. U.S. Delegate Martin Stutsman of FDA/CFSAN and Alternate Delegate Robert Moreau of the USDA Agricultural Research Service described the draft U.S. positions. The meeting featured a lively discussion about the proposed new work for a Marine Oil Standard, with participants offering diverse views on the scope, approach, and desired outcomes for this proposal. Special emphasis was given to ensuring that a new standard would allow for continuing innovation in the production of fish and other marine oils that supply the growing omega-3 fatty acid supplement industry. The committee will meet from February 21-25, in Penang, Malaysia.
Both public meetings had larger than usual audiences, including participation by teleconference.
Upcoming Public Meetings
February 17, 2:00 - 4:00 pm: Codex Committee on Pesticide Residues (CCPR); Location: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, One Potomac Yard, Room S-7100, 2777 S. Crystal Drive, Arlington, VA. Call-in Number 866-299-3188, (international: 706-758-1822) participant code: 7033056463#.
February 22, 10:00 am - 1:00 pm: Codex Committee on Food Additives (CCFA); Location: FDA Harvey Wiley Building, Auditorium (1A003), 5100 Paint Branch Parkway, College Park, MD. Interested parties who cannot participate in person should request a conference call number when registering. Contact information available in Federal Register notice:
Committee on General Principles (CCGP)
The Dutch and Canadian co-chairs of the electronic working group on draft standards held at Step 8 circulated on February 9 a first draft of a discussion paper, based on initial comments submitted by working group members (including the United States) in October 2010. This draft paper is available on the U.S. Codex website for review and comment by March 21. http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/international-affairs/us-codex-alimentarius/committees-and-task-forces/general-subject-committees/codex-committee-on-general-principles/CT_Index
Committee on Food Hygiene (CCFH) invited participants to two physical working groups, which will be held sequentially in Grange, Ireland:
- July 11-13: Revision of the Principles for the Establishment and Application of Microbiological Criteria for Foods, co-chaired by Finland and Japan.
- July 14-15: Guidelines for Control of Specific Zoonotic Parasites in Meat: Trichinella spiralis and Cysticercus bovis, co-chaired by the European Union and New Zealand.
The 73rd report by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) has been published as WHO Technical Report Series No. 960-2011 and is available online at: http://whqlibdoc.who.int/trs/WHO_TRS_960_eng.pdf