Codex Alimentarius Commission
The codex alimentarius commission is an intergovemmental body with over 180 members, within the framework of the Joint Food Standards Program established by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) & the World Health Organization (WHO), with the purpose of protecting the health of consumers and ensuring fair practices in the food trade. The Commission also promotes coordination of all food standards work undertaken by international governmental & non governmental organizations.
The Codex Alimentarius is the result of the commission’s work: a collection of internationally adopted food standards, guidelines, codes of practice and other recommendations.
The codex alimentarius commission was setup in 1961 to act as the international forum for the adoption of food standards. The adopted standards could then be used by individual countries as the basis of their own national laws ; regulations. By having a single basis, it was hoped that there would be greater uniformity and hence fewer barriers.
Although, it did achieve much during the first 30 years of its life, the incorporation of the Codex standards into national legislation was limited. In particular, developed countries felt the codex standards might dilute the controls they had developed nationally over many years. Developing countries that did adopt the Codex standards found that access to developed markets was still limited. More authority was, however, given to the Codex Alimentarius Commission with the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995. This provided a new recognition to the Codex which established Codex standards as the benchmark against which national legislation could be assessed for compliance with WTO rules.
The Codex Alimentarius is financed and run by Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO). Membership is open to any country which is a member of either the FAO or WHO. Interested international organizations can also participate in the work of Codex and assist in the development of standards.
Currently the main meeting of the Codex Alimentarius Commission is an annual meeting open to all member nations and participating organizations. At this meeting decisions are taken on the adoption of standards and on general issues affecting the work of the commission.
Most of the preparatory work takes place in meetings of the various committees which have responsibility of different areas of work. Some of these committees consider matters of a “horizontal” nature (e.g., food hygiene, food labelling, or food contaminants) where as others consider matter of a “vertical” nature (e.g., fats and oils, sugar and fruits and vegetables). These committees are also open to all member nations and participating organizations. A defined “step-wise” procedure governs the adoption of standards and allows all countries to participate even if they do not attend all the meetings.
The Codex Alimentarius Commission also hosts meetings of regional countries, which enables discussion of matters affecting different regions of the world. These regional committees have been particularly valuable for the developing parts of the world where the sharing of experiences encourages the adoption of approaches suitable to the regional situation.