Food Law News - FAO/WHO/WTO/Codex - 2002

FSA News Item, 20 May 2002

LABELLING - Codex labelling committee update

This is a brief summary, provided by the UK's FSA, of the meeting held from May 6 -10 2002 in Halifax, Nova Scotia. A full report will be available shortly on the Codex website

Country of origin

The UK's position that a review of the current rules was justified by the potential for misleading labelling, and by consumer demand for more information, was supported by Korea, Spain (speaking for the EU), Malaysia, Sweden, Switzerland, Norway, India, Ireland, France, Italy and Japan. The USA, Argentina, Chile, Cuba, New Zealand, Canada, Mexico, Thailand, Australia, Brazil and Kenya remain opposed to any changes.

Whilst it was agreed there wasn't sufficient support for a review of the rules to be started, the Committee was reluctant to drop the issue from its agenda. The secretariat's discussion paper will be circulated again for comment, and the Codex Alimentarius Commission's advice will be sought on how best to proceed following further discussions at next year's Labelling Committee meeting.

Misleading labelling

Australia has agreed to lead a small working group to draw up a set of principles and examples based on the USA's useful discussion paper on misleading food labels. These will be discussed next year. Country of origin labelling was specifically mentioned as an area that some countries thought had given rise to labelling that was "truthful but misleading"; a general concept it was agreed should be of great concern to the Committee.

Quantitative Ingredient Declarations (QUID)

There was quite a wide range of views on the need for new work on quantitative ingredient declarations. A number of countries supported the UK's suggestion for a working group to be set up to re-draft the current texts and seek further comments for consideration at next year's meeting. This will be done electronically.

GM labelling

The Committee spent a considerable amount of time going over the texts of the definitions and the labelling provisions. Much of the debate reflected the same areas of contention as last year (the compatibility of process based labelling with WTO obligations; enforceability issues; whether or not to use the term 'modern biotechnology'; the need to ensure labelling declarations were meaningful for consumers, and whether or not to include references to facilitating consumer choice as a purpose of labelling). The debate on this issue is progressing and the Committee aims to advance the labelling text to step 5 next year (the definitions currently remain at step 6) and to step 8 by 2004.


The working group's report to the Committee focussed on Section 5 (criteria) of the Guidelines for the Production, Processing, Labelling and Marketing of Organically Produced Foods. It recommended the Committee support adoption of the revised criteria at step 5; invite comment on the revised text prior to the next meeting; and reconvene the working group in conjunction with the next Committee meeting.

There was some objection to new text permitting chemical substances to be used for the extraction of carriers and binders in exceptional circumstances, which was placed in square brackets. The text was advanced to step 5, but will be circulated electronically for further comment between sessions. Annex 2 will be re-circulated for suggested changes.

Nutrition labelling

Several changes to the proposed text of the draft amendment to the Guidelines on Nutrition Labelling were made, including a suggestion by the UK that the guidelines should apply also to nutrients for which a health claim is made. The revised text was advanced to step 5 and will be circulated again for comments.

Nutrition and health claims

The working group's revised text of the proposed draft Guidelines for the use of Nutrition and Health Claims was advanced to step 5 and will be discussed in detail next year. The Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses (CCNFSDU) is to be asked to resume its work on the scientific basis of health claims as this will provide additional guidance and clarity concerning the substantiation of health claims.

Class names ("milk protein")

The Committee agreed there should be just one class name ("milk protein"), but discussion of the appropriate percentage level for the minimum milk protein content was put off until next year.

Other issues


Comments on a Canadian paper on Food Labelling and Traceability are to be invited so that consideration can be given to the need for further discussion at next year's meeting.

Sports and energy drinks

It was noted that CCNFSDU had concluded there was no need for further work in this area.


A report of the joint FAO/WHO Expert Consultation on Evaluation of Health and Nutritional Properties of Probiotics in Food including Powder Milk with Live Lactic Acid Bacteria was noted.


The labelling provisions of the draft Standard for Chocolate and Chocolate Products (referred by the Codex Committee on Chocolate Products and Chocolate) were agreed. Reservations from Malaysia and India, who thought the requirements for declaring minimum cocoa content were unnecessary in view of the proposals for QUID rules being considered by the Committee, were noted.

Next meeting

28th April - 2nd May 2003, Ottawa, Canada.

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