Ukraine has warned that Russia’s invasion of the country threatens food safety and it is also worried about food fraud.

Comments were made at the FAO/WHO Regional Coordinating Committee for Europe meeting, held this past week. Europe is the biggest Codex region with 52 countries ranging from Albania to Uzbekistan. Russia’s Federal Service for Surveillance on Consumer Rights Protection and Human Wellbeing was represented at the meeting.

Several countries expressed concern about the invasion and short and long-term effects it may have on food security, food quality, and food safety in Ukraine and beyond.

The war is affecting the safety and quality of food supplies and in some areas it is challenging to maintain official controls. Food safety and quality is also compromised by limited access to appropriate food storage and preparation facilities.

Supply chain impact
Ukraine said the actions of Russia threaten the country’s food safety and security. Examples were given by Ukrainian representatives, who stressed it was “not an exhaustive list”.

They included the blocking of food supply chains within and around Ukraine on the ground, sea and air; seizure of food stocks in the temporary occupied territories and theft of agricultural machinery and other equipment used in the cultivation, processing and distribution of food.

Ukrainian officials said they were also concerned about food fraud as agricultural products are being stolen to be repackaged and sold with the proceeds going to Russia.

A statement called on members of the Codex European Region not to engage or take account of any statements made by Russia. It also asked for the suspension of technical cooperation and assistance provided by the WHO and FAO in Russia and any Codex-related meetings in Russia to be cancelled, until it withdraws from Ukraine.

A delegation from the United Kingdom said it would take no account of interventions made by Russia at the meeting and disassociated itself from all Russian contributions at the event and future Codex meetings or working groups, as long as the action against Ukraine continues.

The situation was also discussed at the recent FAO Regional Conference for Europe in Poland but the focus was more on food security and food prices.

Other topics at Codex event
The Codex meeting was hosted virtually by Kazakhstan but took place from FAO in Rome and covered issues such as food standards and food control.

A keynote address was given by Marta Hugas, former chief scientist at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), on sustainability and the role of Codex, and a side event was held on food fraud.

Attendees said much of the work since the last meeting in 2019 had been overshadowed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Emerging issues affecting food safety and quality in the region included potential risks associated with changing consumer behavior and dietary patterns, ingredient substitution and a need for flexible labeling and exemptions during emergency situations. Microbiological hazards, pesticide residues, and mycotoxins were highlighted as continued risks to food safety and potential trade rejections.

Updates were given on the forthcoming WHO regional guidance to food safety authorities on prevention and control of antimicrobial resistance in the food chain, and FAO guidance on prudent use of antimicrobial agents in dairy, poultry, and swine production.

Attendees heard about ongoing projects financed by the Codex Trust Fund in Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, North Macedonia, and Turkmenistan, and an upcoming regional FAO guide on improving food safety in small and medium enterprises.

Next year, the Codex Alimentarius Commission marks its 60th anniversary and World Food Safety Day 2023 will be dedicated to standards.

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