A global food standards-setting body has advanced work on various issues, including lead levels, Ciguatera, and tropane alkaloids.

The latest Codex Committee on Contaminants in Food session was held in Panama City in April.

New maximum levels (MLs) were agreed for lead in various spices, including dried aril, dried seeds, dried rhizomes and roots including galangal, dried bark, dried floral parts, dried fruit and berries, paprika, and sumac. New MLs were also agreed on 0.15 mg/kg for cadmium and 0.2 mg/kg for lead in quinoa.

However, the Indian delegation said more time and research were needed to collect geographically representative data on spices, including from developing countries. The European Union proposed lower MLs based on the As Low as Reasonably Achievable (ALARA) principle and available data.

Another text forwarded to the main Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting in Switzerland in November was the draft code of practice/guidelines for preventing and reducing ciguatera poisoning. The United States chaired the group that worked on this topic. Ciguatera poisoning is estimated to cause from 10,000 to 500,000 cases per year.

New areas of focus
Sampling plans for methylmercury in fish and for total aflatoxin and ochratoxin in certain spices have been sent to November’s meeting for adoption.

New work will include reviews of the code of practice for the Prevention and Reduction of Aflatoxin Contamination in Peanuts and the code of practice for the Reduction of Aflatoxin B1 in Raw Materials and Supplemental Feedingstuffs for Milk-Producing Animals.

A code of practice will be developed to prevent and reduce cadmium contamination in foods. The United States will lead the work expected to be completed in 2027.

There are plans to update the code of practice for Weed Control to Prevent and Reduce Pyrrolizidine Alkaloid Contamination in Food and Feed. A code of practice will also be developed to prevent and reduce the presence of tropane alkaloids in food. These issues will be discussed at the next Codex Committee on Contaminants in Food meeting planned for June 2025.

The Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) will issue calls for data on areas including tropane alkaloids in food and feed at different production stages, total aflatoxins in various cereal products, and in ready-to-eat peanuts as well as for lead in spices, dried bark, and dried culinary herbs to support the committee’s efforts.

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