A long-awaited report on decisions taken at the latest Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting has finally been published.

The United Nations food standards body met in Rome in November 2022. Codex is an initiative of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The delay was because of the number of comments received on the draft report and ensuring that members accepted the final version. It is the second year in succession that the report adoption process overran but was still unable to conclude.

Outbreak and Africa guidelines
Guidelines to manage biological foodborne outbreaks were published. The aim is to help efficient management and communication of such outbreaks to minimize the impact and reduce risk. They were developed for use with Codex texts on risk analysis and national food control systems and are aimed at authorities responsible for handling outbreaks as well as food businesses.

Other guidelines focused on developing harmonized food safety legislation in the African region. By providing a framework, the text will assist countries in identifying their capacity needs, facilitating trade, and encouraging wider use of Codex standards. They are being used by several governments to update national legislation.

Standards on maximum levels for aflatoxins in several food categories, including certain cereals and cereal-based products such as foods for infants and young children, were adopted. However, a few nations were against the move as limits were not in line with national rules or because they should be as low as reasonably achievable.

Concerning cereal-based food for infants, almost 50 nations had reservations including Algeria, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, the European Union, Ghana, Iraq, Morocco, Norway, Russia, Senegal, Singapore, Switzerland, Tunisia, Uganda, United Kingdom, and Zimbabwe.

Members adopted a code of practice to prevent and reduce cadmium contamination in cocoa beans and a maximum level of cadmium in cocoa powder. Although the EU, Cameroon, Norway, Switzerland, and Russia disagreed with the latter.

Growth promoter forces a vote
There was a lively debate on draft maximum residue limits (MRLs) for the growth promoter zilpaterol hydrochloride in cattle liver, kidney, and muscle which led to a vote. The issue has been in Codex for 10 years.  

The EU, UK, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and China were among the members that voiced strong opposition however, nations including the United States, Chile, Uruguay, and Zimbabwe supported the MRLs ahead of potential adoption at the next Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting. 

A decision tree has been added to the Codex general principles of food hygiene as a tool for stakeholders in the production chain to determine critical control points when applying Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP). It consists of four questions to be addressed at each step of the process where a hazard has been identified. 

Progress was made on maximum levels for methylmercury in orange roughy and pink cusk eel and for lead in cereal-based foods for infants and young children, white and refined sugar, corn and maple syrups, honey, and sugar-based candies.

New work included principles and guidelines on the use of remote audit and verification in regulatory frameworks. Work on maximum levels of lead in fresh eggs, dried garlic, and molasses was discontinued.

Members also discussed 2023 being the 60th anniversary of the Codex Alimentarius Commission and World Food Safety Day in June which is dedicated to the theme of standards.

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