U.S. Codex News — Friday, May 22, 2011
A summary of recent and upcoming events published biweekly; direct inquiries to USCodex@fsis.usda.gov
Recent Committee Meetings:
The Committee on Food Labeling (CCFL) held its 39th Session in Quebec City, Canada, May 9-13. Among major developments, the United States joined dozens of other countries in finalizing work compiling a list of existing Codex texts that apply to foods derived from modern biotechnology. The work confirms that Codex labeling texts developed for foods generally also apply to foods derived from modern biotechnology. This draft text clarifies that foods derived from modern biotechnology are not necessarily different from other foods simply due to their method of production.
The Committee also agreed to the declaration of "sodium" on the list of nutrients, but included a footnote allowing national authorities to express the total amount of sodium in salt equivalents as "salt."
The Committee considered a number of agenda items related to the Organic Foods Guidelines, including an agreement to a structured approach for the future review of substances to be added to the Guidelines and a proposal for new work, based on the past year's electronic working group recommendation to include spinosad, copper octanoate, potassium bicarbonate and certain uses of ethylene as new substances for inclusion in the Guidelines.
Upcoming Committee Meetings:
The FAO/WHO Coordinating Committee for Near East (CCNEA) opens its 6th Session in Hammamet, Tunisia, May 23. The agenda features three issues that have been referred for a regional opinion: the revision of the Codex Strategic Plan, private standards, and whether to retain the processed cheese standard. The Committee will consider the proposed draft Code of Practice for Street-Vended Foods, and two proposed draft regional standards (harissa and halwa tehenia). The Committee will also consider project documents proposing regional draft standards for two other commodities (doogh and camel milk). The Committee will also recommend a new regional coordinator.
CCNASWP: The United States, Australia, New Zealand and the FAO conducted a workshop, May 10-12, for the Pacific Island Countries who are members of the committee for North America and Southwest Pacific (CCNASWP). The workshop, held in Samoa, was attended by the eight countries: Cook Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, and Tonga.
The first two days of the workshop focused on four themes: Codex Contact Point Roles and Responsibilities; Managing Codex at the National Level; Effective Participation in Codex; and Developing National and Regional Strategies for Codex. On the third day, the group continued discussions originally covered at the 11th Session of CCNASWP in Tonga in September 2010, regarding a harmonized approach to date marking in the region. The workshop concluded with a discussion on the upcoming Codex Commission session, including: election of new Commission Chair/Vice Chairpersons, regional coordinator transition, and standards for adoption. A case study on ractopamine was presented in support of the scientific process in Codex standard setting.
CCAfrica: A group of 16 officials from Africa arrived in Washington for a mentoring program organized by the U.S. Codex Office, the Joint Institute for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (JIFSAN), and the U.S. Foreign Agricultural Service. The program featured capacity-building workshops with U.S. expert consultants on Codex, May 16-18, and participation in the U.S. Codex Delegates training seminar, May 19-20 (see Other News, below). The program features officials from Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Zambia and the African Union's Inter-African Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR), and concludes on May 25.
Veterinary Policy Group: Members of the U.S. Codex Office explained the Codex standard-setting process on May 18 to five veterinarians on a program organized by Washington State University to study the relationship of national and intergovernmental standards for livestock care with global commerce and agricultural development. Two veterinarians earned degrees at Makerere University in Uganda.
New Working Groups:
The Committee on Food Additives (CCFA) inaugurated an electronic working group (eWG) on prioritization criteria for the reevaluation of food additives by JECFA. This eWG is led by Canada.
The Committee on Contaminants in Food (CCCF) inaugurated four eWGs. Two eWGs will focus on elaboration of maximum levels (MLs): (1) deoxynivalenol (DON) in cereals and cereal-based products, led by Canada; and (2) arsenic in rice, led by China. Two eWGs will develop discussion papers on (3) ochratoxin A in cocoa, led by Ghana; and (4) mycotoxins in sorghum, led by Nigeria.
The U.S. Codex Delegates Training Seminar took place in Greenbelt, MD, May 19-20. The seminar was designed to help participants understand: (1) how to organize and lead a delegation; (2) how to develop and implement strategies for advancing national positions; and (3) how to balance the Codex dual mandate of protecting public health and ensuring fair practices in the food trade. Sixteen officials from Africa, visiting Washington on a separate program, also participated in this seminar.
Intergovernmental Task Force on Animal Feed: Eva Richard, Assistant Director General of the Federal Office of Agriculture in Switzerland, circulated an informal note on May 17 to introduce herself as the new Chairperson of the Task Force and to announce a website: http://www.codextfaf.ch/ to support the Task Force, which was re-activated at the 33rd Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission.