The main session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission could adopt texts relating to E. coli, the use of water in food processing and mycotoxins when it meets later this month.

The event, in Rome starts on Nov. 27 with discussions until Nov. 30. Report adoption is set for Dec. 2. Three side events will be held on Dec. 1 to discuss implementation of Codex standards, reducing foodborne antimicrobial resistance and the Codex Trust Fund.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission is the UN food standards body and was established by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO).

To mark the 60th anniversary of the Commission, the session will open with three moderated panel discussions looking back on achievements and toward the future.

Texts and new work up for consideration
Ten Codex committees and two FAO/WHO coordinating committees have met since the previous Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting in November 2022 to work on a range of standards which have been proposed for adoption.

Texts include guidelines for the control of Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC) in raw beef, fresh leafy vegetables, raw milk and raw milk cheeses, and sprouts and guidelines for the safe use and reuse of water in food production and processing.

Revisions could be made to the standard for follow-up formula and to general guidelines on sampling.

Countries will also discuss a code of practice for the prevention and reduction of mycotoxin contamination in cassava and cassava-based products and principles and guidelines on the use of remote audit and inspection in regulatory frameworks.

Potential new work includes the development of guidelines for food hygiene control measures in traditional markets, a revision of guidelines related to pathogenic Vibrio species in seafood and a code of practice or guidelines to prevent or reduce Ciguatera poisoning.

The session will also seek consensus on maximum residue limits (MRLs) for zilpaterol hydrochloride, a veterinary drug used to enhance growth performance in cattle.

The EU, UK, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and China were among countries that have voiced opposition to the plans however, nations including the United States, Brazil, and New Zealand supported draft MRLs.

Steve Wearne, chair of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, alongside vice chairs, and the Codex Secretariat, published a letter to Codex members and observers ahead of the debate. If there is no consensus on draft MRLs, a vote will be held. This could lead to the work being discontinued, paused or the proposed MRLs not being adopted.

WHO outbreak data call
Meanwhile, WHO has asked for foodborne disease outbreak data to help with source attribution of foodborne pathogens.

The agency is currently estimating global foodborne disease incidence, mortality and burden in terms of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), with an aim to report updated figures by 2025.

In 2015, WHO published estimates showing that unsafe food caused 600 million illnesses and 420,000 deaths in 2010. The baseline year for the 2025 estimates has yet to be confirmed.

One objective is to estimate the proportion of the burden of foodborne diseases that is attributable to food transmission and to specific foods. Outbreak data is required as one source of information to analyze pathogens that cause outbreaks, helping to derive estimates of attribution to specific foods, said WHO.

The agency said it would like to ensure that all relevant data are collected so was asking governments and other interested organizations to submit any available data from public health surveillance.

Deadline for submission is Feb. 29, 2024, and more information can be found here.

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