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U.S. Codex News—Friday, March 23, 2012

A summary of recent and upcoming events published biweekly; direct inquiries to USCodex@fsis.usda.gov

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Upcoming Public Meeting

Codex Committee on General Principles (CCGP): The public meeting for the 27th Session will be held on March 28 from 1-4 p.m. at the Jamie L. Whitten Building, USDA, 1400 Independence Avenue SW., Room 107-A, Washington, DC 20250. The public meeting will address all agenda items, including: Issues Surrounding Codex Standards Held at Step 8; Mechanism for Examining Economic Impact Statements; and Development of Joint Codex-World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) Standards. Individuals may also participate via teleconference by calling: 1 (888) 858-2144; Participant Code: 6208658. The upcoming CCGP Session will be held in Paris, France, April 2-6, 2012.

Recent Committee Meetings

Codex Committee on Food Additives (CCFA): The 44th Session of CCFA recently concluded on March 16 in Hangzhou, China, and despite the efforts of an electronic Working Group (eWG), once again, the CCFA failed to resolve the issue of Note 161 to the General Standard of Food Additives (GSFA). The use of this Note has become a critical issue because many countries view the inclusion of national legislation in Codex standards as a trade barrier and contrary to the spirit of Codex. Below is a detailed account of the discussion surrounding Note 161 as well as of some other important discussions on other agenda items from the most recent Session.

  • The discussion on Note 161 (Subject to the national legislation of an importing country aimed in particular, at consistency with Section 3.2 of the preamble) to the GSFA, was opened by the Chair who noted that not only did many of the delegations feel the Note's use was inappropriate, but that the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) had clearly indicated its concerns over the use of the Note. The Chair also reminded the Committee that use of the Note was suspended at last year's CCFA session.

    South Africa, which chaired the eWG, provided a synopsis of the eWG report, and stated that an analysis showed that use of the Note was primarily in cases of colors and sweeteners, although the use of these additives coincided with the Committee's list of foods in which colors and sweeteners had already been justified.

    The eWG report revealed that the countries that opposed the Note's use did so because they believed it served as a trade barrier and was not within the spirit of harmonization of international standards in Codex. They emphasized that the GSFA provided adequate guidance to national authorities when interpreting the acceptable maximum use levels to account for differences in national practices in the use of additives. Countries that supported the use of Note 161 believed it was necessary to account for national practices and to prevent misleading the consumer. They also maintained it was needed because, in their view, Section 3.2 of the Preamble was not rigorously applied.

    The eWG recommended three options including immediate elimination of Note 161. The Chair, however, did not believe consensus could be reached on this option, and instead recommended that the Committee agree to maintain the use of the Note in the 399 GSFA provisions in which it was already used, but stop any future use of it. The United States and other Quad countries, as well as countries from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, all voiced support for eliminating or discontinuing the use of Note 161. Countries that opposed its elimination and suspension maintained that Note 161 was necessary for continuing progress on the GSFA and should be applied on a case-by-case basis. There was universal support however, for reducing the Note's use.

    The Chair proposed to establish an eWG to address the use of Note 161 in sweeteners where it is currently used, but there was no consensus on the Terms of Reference, i.e., whether the goal of the eWG would be to eliminate references to national legislation or to reduce references to national legislation. As such, the Chair concluded that there was no reasonable expectation of reaching consensus on this issue and suspended discussion.
  • In other work, the CCFA agreed to adopt, revise, discontinue, or revoke approximately 340 provisions in the GSFA. It also agreed to apply a horizontal approach to the consideration of provisions in Tables 1 and 2 for additives in Table 3 of the GSFA, with the technological function of "acidity regulator" or "emulsifier, stabilizer, thickener" for consideration at the 45th Session next year.
  • The CCFA also agreed to further work on the remaining GSFA provisions for the aluminum-containing additives and make recommendations for action at the 45th Session. These tasks, along with consideration of outstanding GSFA provisions not discussed at the 44th Session, have been charged to an eWG chaired by the United States.
  • The CCFA discussed the revised title and descriptor of food category 16 (Composite foods - foods that could not be placed in categories 01 - 15) of the GSFA, and its consequential effects on food category 12.6.1 - Emulsified sauces (e.g., mayonnaise, salad dressing) and on the Preamble to the GSFA. The United States and several other delegations supported the proposed revisions, while the EU and several other delegations did not. As a compromise, it was proposed to keep the revised title and descriptor of food category 16.0, but to delete all examples included in the descriptor. The revised title and compromise text for the descriptor were forwarded to the CAC for adoption.
  • The CCFA also agreed to recommend that the CAC revoke or discontinue work on all provisions for food category 16.0 in the GSFA, and to request via Circular Letter, proposals for provisions to be included in the revised food category, in particular, clarifying why these provisions would not be covered by food categories 01 - 15.
  • Finally, the CCFA agreed to the consequential changes to the title and descriptor of food category 12.6.1, and recommended adoption by the CAC. However, the Committee agreed not to revise the Preamble of the GSFA.

Electronic Working Groups (eWG)

Task Force on Animal Feeding (TFAF): Switzerland will lead a new eWG, working only in English, to redraft the Guidance for Use by Governments in Prioritizing their National Feed Hazards. The TFAF agreed at its recent session in February to return the renamed proposed draft Guidance to Step 2 for redrafting on the basis of the discussion and decisions taken at the session. The TFAF noted that work needed to be undertaken in the eWG on the following:

  • the description of the three criteria for identifying relevant hazards in feed;
  • more detailed guidance on the application of the criteria by governments;
  • preparing a list of "potential feed hazards" relevant for food safety in a separate annex; and
  • a second Annex with examples for illustrative purposes on the application of the criteria for the prioritization of hazards in feed.

The goal is to submit the redrafted guidance, after two rounds of comments, to the Codex Secretariat by September 1, 2012. Individuals in the United States interested in contributing to the eWG should send their name, official title, and email address to the U.S. Codex Office (USCodex@fsis.usda.gov). Other Codex Members and Observers interested in participating in this eWG to provide the name(s), official title and e-mail address of their representatives to the Switzerland TFAF Secretariat ( secretariatTFAF@blw.admin.ch) by March 31, 2012.

Physical Working Groups (pWG)

FAO/WHO Coordinating Committee for Europe (CCEURO): Turkey will lead a pWG, working in English with Russian interpretation, on the Proposed Draft Regional Standard for Ayran in Istanbul, Turkey, from May 29-31, 2012. The goal is to circulate the draft standard for comments at step 3 for consideration by the next session of the CCEURO, scheduled to take place from September 25-28, 2012 in Tbilisi, Georgia. Please note that this pWG is only open to members of CCEURO and Observers. Observers interested in participating in this pWG to provide the name(s), official title and e-mail address of their representatives to the Turkish Codex Contact Point (kodeks@tarim.gov.tr) by April 30, 2012.

Comments Requested

Codex Committee on Pesticide Residues (CCPR): The Codex Alimentarius invites comments on the "Revision of the Risk Analysis Principles Applied by the Codex Committee on Pesticide Residues" (CX/PR 12/44/13 February 2012). For those interested in submitting comments for consideration by the U.S. Delegation, please submit your comments to the U.S. Codex Office (USCodex@fsis.usda.gov) by March 27, 2012. The document is available on our companion page: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/international-affairs/us-codex-alimentarius/committees-and-task-forces/general-subject-committees/codex-committee-on-pesticide-residues/ct_index.

Publications

The FAO JMPR Secretariat has published a report on Pesticide Residues in Food, entitled the Evaluations of 2011 JMPR PART I- RESIDUES. This may be accessed on the FAO website: http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/templates/agphome/documents/Pests_Pesticides/JMPR/Evaluation11/Contents.pdf 

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Last Modified Sep 10, 2013