Experts from 14 Latin American and Caribbean countries have met to discuss food safety ahead of upcoming Codex Alimentarius meetings.

Mary Frances Lowe, manager for Codex Alimentarius at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said countries need to participate to achieve future collaboration, ensure integrated decision-making and raise the profile of science.

“We must strengthen the participation of the countries and the regional organizations of the Americas and the Caribbean in this process, and cooperation as well, as there are big challenges we need to tackle with regard to the communication of science,” she added.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) in Brazil sponsored the event, with support from the FAO/WHO Coordinating Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean (CCLAC). Food hygiene, nutrition and food for special dietary uses, and antimicrobial resistance were some topics on the agenda.

Participants also discussed Codex’s Strategic Plan, differences between countries and Codex in risk management, and the role of science and the best way to disseminate it to reach a wider audience.

Guilherme Costa, chair of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, said the conference addressed technical know-how to enable countries to reach a consensus, despite the different viewpoints, on application of fair trade and food safety practices.

Diego Varela, CCLAC coordinator, said the discussions ensured a clear understanding of the process involved in drafting Codex standards and trade facilitation.

Delegates from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago, Uruguay and the U.S. attended.

Robert Ahern, leader of Agricultural Health and Food Safety (AHFS) at IICA, said the meeting ensured a better understanding of the most important issues addressed by Codex Alimentarius. He added countries were also able to share experiences and strategies to guarantee citizens access to healthy food.

The following meetings are scheduled to advance Codex objectives:

  • The Codex Committee on Food Hygiene from Nov. 12 to 16 in Panama;
  • The committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses from Nov. 26 to 30 in Germany; and
  • A task force on antimicrobial resistance from Dec. 10 to 14 in South Korea.

Codex Alimentarius is a United Nations standards-setting body working under the U.N Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Codex Alimentarius  establishes food standards to protect public health and ensure fair trade of safe food worldwide. Many countries incorporate Codex standards into their laws. Codex standards are also used by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in settling trade disputes.

Recent Codex workshops
Meanwhile, a workshop organized by the European Union “Better Training for Safer Food” initiative took place last month in Cape Town, South Africa, for Codex members of the African Region. It covered different perspectives on Codex priorities, practical experiences on participation in the standard setting process and national implementation of Codex standards.

In line with the message of Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, Barbara Moretti, of the EU Codex Team, said it was an opportunity to reinforce cooperation and communication in Codex between the EU and Africa.

“It’s so important for us to support and participate in events such as this workshop for countries in the Africa region,” said Codex vice-chair Steve Wearne.

Another workshop in Delhi in September focused on boosting the national capacity of 17 Asian countries to operate in the Codex Alimentarius standard-setting environment. The sessions looked at electronic systems and tools including the Online Commenting System (OCS) digital platform for Electronic Working Groups (EWG) and the tool to collect information on member countries’ food safety control systems.

National Codex committee staff based in Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Lao PDR, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand took part.

The next Codex tools workshops will be in Vanuatu and Kazakhstan later this month and in November.

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