Report of the U.S. Delegate, 28th Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, July 4-9, 2005, Rome, Italy
The United States is pleased with the overall outcome of the 28th Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), having achieved almost all of its pre-Commission objectives, especially recognizing the complexity and difficult nature of many of the issues coming before CAC and the wide diversity of views held by member countries.
The following are key outcomes from the 28th Session:
Election of Officers
Up for election were the Codex Chairperson and all three Vice-Chairpersons. CAC elected Dr. Claude Mosha of Tanzania as Chairperson. The United States is pleased that Dr. Karen Hulebak, Chief Scientist, Office of Public Health Science, USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service and Chairperson of the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene (CCFH), was elected as a Vice-Chairperson. Also elected as Vice-Chairpersons were Mr. Wim Van Eck of the Netherlands and Ms. Noriani Othman of Malaysia. Canada was elected as the geographic representative for North America and Samoa was appointed as the Coordinator for the North America and Southwest Pacific Region.
Adoption of Standards
CAC adopted a significant number of new standards relating to food additives, pesticide residues, veterinary drug residues, food hygiene, methods of analysis and sampling, food import and export inspection and certification and commodities, as well as a number of draft standards at Step 5. Also, CAC approved fourteen (14) new work items, revoked fourteen (14) old standards now considered outdated because of the newly approved standards, and discontinued work on four standards.
Key standards adopted and decisions relating to the adoption of standards include the following:
Final (Step 8) Adoptions:
Code of Practice to Minimize and Contain Antimicrobial Resistance;
Code of Practice for the Prevention and Reduction of Aflatoxin Contamination in Tree Nuts;
Code of Practice for the Prevention and Reduction of Tin Contamination in Canned Foods;
Code of Practice for Meat Hygiene;
Codex General Standard or Fruit Juices and Nectars;
Code of Practice for Fish and Fishery Products (including sections relating to aquaculture, shrimps and prawns, and cephalopods);
Guidelines for Vitamin and Mineral Supplements;
Principles for Electronic Certification.
Draft (Step 5) Adoptions:
Draft Guidelines for the Application of General Principles of Food Hygiene to the Control of Listeria monocytogenes in Foods;
Draft Principles for and Guidelines for Conduct of Microbiological Risk Assessment;
Draft Code of Practice for Eggs and Egg Products;
Draft Risk Analysis Principles Applied by the Committee on Pesticide Residues;
Draft Maximum Levels for Cadmium in Rice;
Draft Maximum Level for Total Aflatoxins in Unprocessed Almonds, Hazelnuts and Pistachios.
Approval of New Work:
Proposed Draft Principles for the Application of Traceability/Product Tracing in the Context of Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems;
Proposed Draft Revision of the Codex Guidelines for Generic Official Certificates Formats and the Production and Issuance of Certificates.
Other Actions Relating to Standards
After extensive discussion, returned the Proposed Draft Amendment to the General Standard for the Labelling of Prepackaged Food: Quantitative Declaration of Ingredients (QUID) to Step 3. Many delegations, including the United States, expressed concern that substantial portions of the text, including key provisions on which substantially different views were held, remained in square brackets.
With respect to the Recommended International Code of Practice for the Processing and Handling of Quick Frozen Foods, endorsed the recommendation of the Codex Executive Committee (CCEXEC) to return the Code to Step 3 for circulation and further comment.
Discontinued work on the Proposed Draft Standard for Soy Sauce.
Returned the Proposed Draft Standard for Ginseng Products to Step 3 and requested that the Codex Coordinating Committee for Asia address concerns that the current draft extended beyond foods to include extracts and concentrated ginseng that could be interpreted to be medicinal products.
CAC agreed in principle to establish a Codex Task Force on antimicrobial resistance and accepted the invitation of the Republic of Korea to host the Task Force should it be established. CAC considered an Information Paper resulting from an informal working group meeting held during the Session that provided a proposed purpose, scope and activities of the Task Force. CAC agreed to issue a Circular Letter based on the Information Paper, requesting input on the purpose, scope and specific activities of the Task Force. CAC is expected to make a final decision on the establishment of a Task Force on antimicrobial resistance at its 2006 Session.
CAC did not re-establish the Task Force on Animal Feeding but agreed to defer any decision on the subject until its next (2006) session.
Proposal for a New Standard for Parmesan Cheese/Rules-Based Decision Making
The subject of establishing a new standard for parmesan cheese was discussed at the previous (27th) Session of CAC, at which time no consensus could be reached. The issue of substance was whether procedural rules relating to Codex criteria for new work could be overridden by interests relating to geographic indicators and protected designations of origin. The legal opinion rendered by FAO and WHO stated that, from a strictly legal point of view, there was no requirement that aspects of intellectual property protection be considered as criteria to be taken into consideration by Codex when deciding on acceptance of new work or adopting standards.
CAC held a lengthy discussion on the subject. The Delegation of the European Community, supported by other delegations, continued to state their opposition to a standard for parmesan cheese, stating that the name "parmesan" was a geographic indicator in the EC and should not be considered as generic term. The United States and delegations from all other regions except Europe stated that the proposal met all Codex criteria for new work, including provisions in the Codex Procedural Manual and criteria established by the Codex Committee on Milk and Milk Products, and that, as a rules-based organization, Codex should initiate work on the standard.
CAC, recognizing its inability to reach a decision, agreed to hold the issue in abeyance for possible future consideration, but encouraged interested parties to continue informal consultations among themselves to determine whether and how a decision on this issue might be reached. The final report will note that the issue can be raised at a future session of CAC if any member wishes to do so.
Country of Origin Labelling
CAC concurred with the Codex Committee on Food Labelling that no new work on country of origin labeling should be undertaken and that consideration of this agenda item should be discontinued.
Changes to Codex Rules and Procedures
With a quorum of countries required for changes to the Statutes and Rules of Procedure present, CAC approved numerous changes, as follows:
Amendments to the Rules of Procedure
CAC agreed to:
Enlarge CCEXEC by naming Regional Coordinators as Members;
Expand the duties and responsibilities of the CCEXEC to include the management of the Codex standards-setting process;
Financially support attendance at meetings of CCEXEC of members from developing countries;
Adopt rules relating to who can address the Chair at Codex sessions;
Clarify rules for the participation of international intergovernmental organizations in the work of the Codex.
Amendments to the Statutes
Recognizing that the procedure for the acceptance of Codex standards had only been infrequently used and had been replaced by the WTO notification procedure, CAC deleted references to the Acceptance Procedure in the Statutes.
Other Amendments to the Codex Procedural Manual
Removed language regarding the Codex Acceptance Procedure from various sections of the Procedural Manual (see above). CAC agreed, however, that Paragraph 4 of the Guidelines for the Acceptance Procedure for Codex Standards Codex Committee stated a fundamental principle of Codex and was not related to the Acceptance Procedures. CAC instructed the Codex Committee on General Principles to consider how this provision might be integrated into the General Principles of Codex.
Adopted revisions to the Criteria for Establishment of Work Priorities. Noting the concern of the United States that the Criteria should not be adopted until work had been completed on the review of the Codex committee structure and mandates, CAC indicated that the Criteria could be reviewed later if necessary.
Adopted guidelines for electronic and physical working groups.
Adopted revised principles for the participation of international non-governmental organizations in the work of the Codex.
Adopted guidelines for cooperation between Codex and international intergovernmental organizations.
Review of Committee Structures and Mandates
CAC considered 20 recommendations resulting from a review of the structure and mandates of Codex committees and task forces.
CAC endorsed recommendations relating to work prioritization; more work by correspondence; time limits for work; maximum use of working groups; and encouragement for all committees to adopt a more systematic approach to self-management. CAC also recommended that: the Codex Committee on Food Additives and Contaminants be split into two separate committees (one dealing with additives, the other with contaminants); that the Codex General Standard for Food Additives (GSFA) should be the single authoritative reference point for food additives; and that all requests from Codex subsidiary bodies for JECFA advice on additives and contaminants should be routed exclusively through CCFAC.
CAC agreed that there was no need to take a position on reviewing its remit with respect to the implications of the WTO SPS and TBT Agreements. Similarly, the Commission agreed that there was no need to take specific action on a recommendation to wind down the Codex Committee on Meat Hygiene and for CCFH to consider drafting a set of general guidelines to help rationalize hygiene provisions in commodity standards.
CAC agreed that further study was needed on recommendations relating to: restructuring Codex commodity committees including their terms of reference; the role of nutrition within Codex; and determining the relevance of the work of other international standards setting bodies including a clear statement of demarcation between the work of Codex and such bodies.
CAC did not support recommendations relating to: the establishment of a Commodities Management Committee or the need to establish further management oversight other than that assigned to the Executive Committee; reviewing the terms of reference of the Codex Committee on Methods of Analysis and Sampling; and removing the drafting of regional standards from the terms of reference of Codex Regional Coordinating Committees.
CAC endorsed the proposed structure and timeline for the preparation of the 2008-2013 Codex Strategic Plan and agreed that a working group comprised of the Codex Chairperson and three Vice-Chairpersons would prepare a preliminary draft of the Strategic Plan for presentation at the 57th (December 2005) Session of CCEXEC.
CAC received reports on, and considered, the areas of: Codex finances and budget; the Codex Trust Fund for Enhanced Participation in Codex; the provision of scientific advice to Codex by FAO/WHO; relations between Codex and other international intergovernmental (OIE, WTO, IAEA) and non-governmental organizations (ISO), and the WHO Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health.
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