The World Health Organization (WHO) is requesting data on methylmercury and total mercury in certain fish species.

Fish types for which maximum limits have already been established are excluded.

People are mainly exposed to methylmercury when they eat fish and shellfish that contain the compound. It can adversely affect a baby’s growing brain and nervous system.

The 13th Session of the Codex Committee on Contaminants in Foods in Indonesia in mid-2019 agreed to continue work on the subject and re-establish the electronic working group led by New Zealand and Canada to prepare proposals for maximum levels and sampling plans for additional fish species to be considered in the next meeting.

Due to the pandemic, this meeting has been postponed until 2021, so there is an opportunity to build on  findings in a paper submitted by Codex members.

Attempt to plug information gaps
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and WHO are requesting submission of new or additional data on methylmercury and total mercury in all fish species which has not previously been sent in. This should cover the last 12 years. Data is wanted for those fish species for which insufficient information was available when the working group prepared the discussion paper.

Additional fish species for which data is sought to consider the feasibility to establish Codex maximum levels include anglerfish, barracuda, cardinalfish, catfish, cusk-eel, greenling, grouper, hapuku, orange roughy, snapper and sablefish.

Information also needs to be included on whether it is domestically caught or imported fish, the state of food analyzed, so cooked or raw, and the portion analyzed such as fat content, dry weight as is or as consumed as well as if it is fresh or processed, canned, preserved or salted. Data should be submitted by Dec. 15, 2020. More information can be found here.

Another call relates to the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) meeting planned for June 2021. It covers toxicological, dietary exposure assessment and technological data. The deadline is Dec. 31, 2020.

For the food additives to be considered at the meeting, governments, organizations, producers of these chemicals, and individuals are invited to submit data for the toxicological evaluations, preparation of specifications for identity and purity and for estimating intake of the compounds listed.

Benzoic acid and its salts and Riboflavin from Ashbya gossypii are included for toxicological evaluation, exposure assessment and establishment of specifications for food additives. More than 10 substances used as processing aids will be looked at. The committee has also requested suitable microbiological acceptance criteria and supporting data for all modified starches.

Other areas include cadmium and lead
One of two ongoing calls covers cadmium in food. An electronic working group led by Ecuador and Ghana is looking at maximum levels for certain categories of chocolates and cocoa-derived products ahead of a meeting in May 2021.

JECFA is updating the dietary exposure assessment of cadmium from chocolates and cocoa products and all foods. Data on cadmium from all food sources, particularly chocolates and cocoa products, should cover the past 10 years and be submitted by Dec. 1, 2020.

The other is a request for data on lead in food for infants and young children in certain foods such as aromatic herbs; egg products; sugars and confectionery excluding cocoa.

An electronic working group led by Brazil is advising on the need and feasibility to establish maximum levels for lead in some food for this age group except those for which a limit has been established.

New or additional data on lead in commodities such as fruit juice and herbal teas, yoghurt, cheese and milk-based desserts for infants and young children, dry spices, quail eggs, brown sugars and syrup and molasses is wanted. Data should cover the past 10 years and must be submitted by Nov. 21, 2020.

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