Food Law News - FAO/WHO/WTO/Codex - 2001

FSA Letter, 24 July 2001

Codex Alimentarius Commission 2-7 July 2001 - Digest of the EU Presidency Report

This report is based on the one from the EU Presidency, but with particular UK concerns added in as a report back to Codex Contact points who provided briefing.

1. Chairperson's Action Plan and the Draft Strategic Framework

1.1 Annual mmetings of the CAC not yet agreed. Will review this once a decision on the status of the Codex Executive Committee has been taken.

2. Expert bodies

2.1 The CAC welcomed developments in the management of the expert bodies and moves to improve transparency of recruitment and declaration of interests. It was agreed to request WHO and FAO to consult more widely on the status and procedures of the expert bodies and to make recommendations to the Director Generals of the FAO and WHO of ways to improve the quantity, quality and timeliness of scientific advice to Codex.

3. Codex relations with other international organisations

3.1 The Draft Strategic Framework was finalized during the Session by a drafting group. One of the main issues discussed by the Session concerned to what extent the Commission should take account of international regulatory initiatives and developments in bodies such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, IPPC and OIE. Although it was agreed that due account of these initiatives and developments should be taken, the Session, however, deleted a phrase according to which the Commission should "ensure that its outputs are consistent with relevant international conventions and agreements".

3.2 There was also discussion of the relationship between UN/ECE and the CCFFV and the need to avoid duplication of work. Use of UN/ECE standards at step 3 of the Codex process (and by extension those of OIE, OIV and IIR) was one proposed solution here. This did not find favour with all delegations, some pointing out that the terms of reference of the CCFFV was sufficient to avoid duplication (EC) and others (Malaysia led DCs, Cairns and US) that CCFFV was the sole recognised body for the elaboration of international standards on fresh fruit and vegetables. CAC concluded there was no consensus for a mechanism and no change to the terms of reference of CCFFV would be made. However, it was necessary to draw on the experience and expertise of other international bodies and CAC would be open to this when it came to elaboration and adoption of standards.

3.3 A document giving guidance on co-operation with international bodies and how to take their views into Codex standards would be considered by a future CAC. CCGP would take this forward.

4. Trust fund

4.1 Concerning the proposed trust fund, the Commission agreed that clear rules and procedures for the establishment and functioning of such a fund should be established by FAO and WHO. These rules and procedures will be considered by the Executive Committee and the next Session. The fund is to be used for financing developing country and consumer organisation representatives' participation in Codex meetings.

5. Risk analysis and the Precautionary Principle

5.1 The Codex Committee on General Principles (CCGP) had asked the advice of the Commission on two issues concerning the Working principles of Risk Analysis : the scope and the action to be taken when scientific data were insufficient.

5.2 As for the scope, the Commission agreed that the CCGP should develop guidance both to Codex and to governments. The extension of the scope to governments did not attract a consensus. Many thought Codex should act on science, where there was a lack of science, national governments would make their own decisions within the scope of the WTO SPS Agreement. The US thought advice to governments should be new work. CCGP would decide whether the guidance to governments should be developed parallel (preferred by the EC) or subsequently (preferred by US, Latin Americans and many developing countries) to guidance to Codex.

5.3 There still exists a disagreement on the use of term "precautionary principle" in Codex and as a result of this no consensus could be reached on what action Codex can take in cases when a risk to human health exists but there is insufficient scientifc data. The Chairman proposed, and a majority of member countries were in favour of the following position :

"When there is evidence that a risk to human health exists but scientific data are insufficient or incomplete, the Commission should not proceed to elaborate a standard but should consider elaborating a related text, such as a code of practice, provided that such a text would be supported by the available scientific evidence."

5.4 Most European delegations entered a reservation on this position and also the manner how the decision was made was criticized. The EC maintains that precaution was already applied in the work of Codex and that Codex should make every effort to protect consumers' health even when scientific evidence was insufficient. The UK reminded the CAC that this was the final position of the Melbourne Confrerence.

5.5 The CCGP was asked to complete its work on working principles for risk analysis so that they could be adopted by the next Session of the Commission in 2003.

6. Rules of Procedure: Accession to Codex by REIOs

6.1 As the quorum specified in the Rules of Procedure was not attained the Commission was not able to adopt the proposed amendments to the Rules of Procedure.

6.2 Thus, also the discussion on the amendment to allow regional economic integration organisations (REIOs) to become members of Codex ("EC accession") was deferred to the next Session of the Commission. Meanwhile the CCGP will consider the subject at its next Session (April 2002) as requested by the Belgian delegation, speaking on behalf of the EC.

7. Adoption of Standards and other texts

7.1 Commission was, due to time constraints, unable to complete its review of proposed draft standards submitted to it other than those for step 8 and accelerated step 5 to step 8 ommitting steps 6 and 7. Consideration at Step 5, matters referred to it by Codex Committees, and proposals for the elaboration of new standards and related texts are to go to an extraordinary Session of the Executive Committee, to take place later this year (probably October). However, a report from the task force on biotechnology allowed some decisions to be made here.

7.2 In a report by Dr Hiroshi Yoshikura, the CAC adopted the following texts at step 5 and advanced them to step 6: proposed draft principles for the risk analysis of foods derived from modern biotechnology; and the proposed draft guidelines for the conduct of safety assessment of foods derived from recombinant DNA plants. The work for elaboration of a new proposed draft guideline for the conduct of food safety assessment of recombinant DNA microorganisms was approved.

8. Highlight list of texts considered by the CAC of interest to the EC

Elected officers

Tom Billy (USA) was re-elected as Chairman of the CAC. Vice - Chairs as follows: Stuart Slorach (Sweden), Gonzalo Rios (Chile), David Nahri (Zimbabwe). Countries chairing regional committees as follows:

To go to main Food Law Index page,
click here.