Food Law News - FAO/WHO/WTO/Codex - 2004
29 November to 3 December 2004
CODEX – Co-ordinating Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean (14 th Session) Buenos Aires, Argentina
SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS
The summary and conclusions of the 14th Session of the FAO/WHO Coordinating Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean are as follows:
Matters for consideration of the Codex Alimentarius Commission
The Committee: -
- Agreed that the nomination of Argentina as Regional Coordinator be proposed to the Commission at its 28th Session (para. 99).
Other matters of interest to the Commission
- FAO/WHO Trust Fund for enhanced participation in Codex. The Committee recognized the importance of the Trust Fund in facilitating the participation of developing countries in Codex meetings. However, it stated that the Trust Fund should be used for effective participation and would only be used for other purposes when there were surpluses. In this connection, it expressed its concern about the criteria for the allocation of resources and the eligibility of countries for which aspects such as effective participation and balanced representation between regions should be taken into account. It also agreed that the Regional Strategic Plan should include an analysis of the feasibility of establishing a regional trust fund (paras. 9-13).
- Code of Ethics for International Trade in Food. The Committee noted that the current version of the Code relating to international trade contained the rights and obligations provided for in the WTO Agreements and that the food safety aspects were already included in general or specific Codex standards. It did not therefore consider it appropriate to revise the document and only where aspects relating to non-trade exchanges continued to be the subject of discussion, the outcome of the work should be consistent with the principles of the WTO and with Codex standards (paras. 14-19)
- FAO/WHO activities complementary to the work of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. The Committee took note of the scientific advisory activities pursued by FAO and WHO since its previous session (paras. 23-24).
- Capacity building. The Committee expressed its appreciation to FAO and to WHO/PAHO/INPPAZ for their capacity-building activities in the Region and agreed that FAO should develop capacity-building activities to facilitate the establishment of Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) in products of interest to the Region. It supported the involvement of consumers in capacity-building activities and endorsed the coordination of FAO and WTO activities to generate joint actions between the Contact Points of Codex and the WTO/SPS and TBT Agreements to ensure that the Codex Contact Points participated in capacity-building activities relating to the WTO/SPS and TBT Agreements (paras. 25-32)
- Legislation on food and food control. The Committee took note of progress made in the Region in relation to national food control systems, food legislation and cooperation activities (paras. 36-40)
- Participation of consumers in the establishment of Codex standards. The Committee exchanged information on the participation of consumers in the work of Codex in the Region. It also recognized that the integration of consumer organizations and their lack of financial resources and technical expertise in all areas related to Codex work restricted their effective participation in standards setting at national level. It also recognized that other stakeholders such as industry and the academic sector were not sufficiently aware of the importance of Codex work and of how to integrate its standards and related texts into the production process, which made it necessary to continue exploring mechanisms to improve this situation in the future (paras. 41-46).
- Review of the Regional Coordinating Committees. The Committee examined a number of issues relating to the role, membership, terms of reference and effectiveness of the Regional Coordinating Committees and the roles of the Coordinator and the Member of the Executive Committee elected in accordance with the geographical criterion and made a series of observations and recommendations (paras. 47-70)
- Role: The Committee agreed that its role should be strategic coordination and the establishment of a regional position on the issues under discussion in Codex, in order to achieve a balance between the interests and concerns of the different regions in relation to Codex standards and related texts.
- Membership: The Committee agreed that the current geographical coverage should be retained and that the involvement of all the subregions and especially the English-speaking Caribbean should be achieved through the implementation of the Regional Strategic Plan.
- Terms of Reference: The Committee agreed that the terms of reference were clearly defined and should be applied through the Regional Strategic Plan and added to its terms of reference the promotion of the adoption of regional positions on strategic subjects to reflect the role of the Regional Coordinating Committees. It also observed, with regard to the elaboration of regional standards, that it would be preferable to propose to the Commission the elaboration of world-wide standards of interest to the Region.
- Effectiveness: The Committee requested that the Commission reaffirm the importance of Government involvement in Codex issues and agreed to maintain the current frequency of sessions (every two years) although there was no alignment between the dates of the sessions of the Coordinating Committees and the Commission and its subsidiary bodies that would make it possible to adopt regional positions before these bodies met.
- Roles of the Coordinator/Regional Representative: The Committee agreed that the terms of office of the Coordinator and of the Member of the Executive Committee elected on a geographical basis should be identical and that the mandate of the Member should be renewable once.
- Other issues: The Committee agreed that questions of interest to the Region would be a permanent agenda item in the future.
- Strategic Plan of the CCLAC. The committee endorsed the Regional Strategic Plan and formulated the following observations and conclusions (paras. 71-93)
- Objective 1 – Communication: The Committee agreed to look into the possibility of using virtual chat rooms, videoconferencing and so forth for the exchange of information and for drawing up regional positions, as well as other forms of electronic communication. It also agreed that information could be disseminated through a variety of sources but that the official position of the countries should be communicated through the Codex Contact Points.
- Objective 2 – Effective participation of Members: The Committee agreed that means of electronic communication should be used for the exchange of information on Codex matters of strategic importance to the Region with a view to establishing common positions whenever possible. It also agreed that the establishment of working groups would be considered on a case-by-case basis.
- Objective 3 – Strengthening of capacities: The Committee agreed that the sharing of information and experiences and the organization of joint activities between countries of the Region could help advance the development and strengthening of the capacities of national bodies involved in Codex activities and that there should be more effective contact between the WTO SPS/TBT Notification Points and the Codex Contact Points in order to enhance coordination of Codex-related actions linked to these Agreements that were of interest to the Region.
- Objective 4 - Use of technical and scientific capacities: The Committee agreed with the elaboration of a set of criteria for the selection of experts of the Region who would serve as technical or scientific advisers to the CCLAC Members in drawing up national or regional positions on relevant Codex issues. Such criteria would take into account procedures established by FAO/WHO in this regard.
- Objective 5 – Continuity of Committee tasks: The Committee noted that the Regional Strategic Plan called for activities to monitor and evaluate the status of activities envisaged in the Plan and established a Working Group for this purpose.
- Objective 6 – Technical and financial cooperation: The Committee indicated the importance of seeking technical and financial cooperation mechanisms at international and regional level that would allow regional representation at Codex meetings. In this connection, it agreed to continue identifying international and regional organizations that could give support to the countries of the Region to enhance their participation in Codex and Codex-related activities and encouraged its Members to contact their relevant official institutions so that governments could explore the possibilities of entering into cooperation agreements with these organizations for training activities related to the work of Codex and in order to ensure the effective participation of CCLAC Members in Codex activities
- Objective 7 – Identification and prioritization of regional standard-related needs: The Committee expressed its concern about the lack of Codex MRLs for substances used in export commodities of interest to the Region and the tendency for certain Members of the WTO and Codex to unilaterally set MRLs at the detection limit of the analytical method without sufficient scientific evidence to justify limits that were more restrictive than those of Codex, when these existed.
- Guidelines for Food Safety in Tourist Zones. The Committee agreed that a questionnaire be distributed through a Circular Letter to request comments and information from the Member Countries in order to evaluate the advisability of proceeding with the elaboration of the Guidelines (paras. 94-98)
- Country of origin labelling. The Committee agreed that there was no need for further elaboration of the Codex General Standard for the Labelling of Prepackaged Foods with regard to this issue given that its provisions were sufficient to provide adequate information to consumers (paras. 100-102)
- Working Principles for Risk Analysis for Food Safety. The Committee agreed that precaution in risk management should only be considered as a qualified and provisional exception to the obligation to base sanitary and phytosanitary measures on adequate sufficient evidence, on the basis of Article 5.7 of the SPS Agreement, and expressed its opposition to any reference to environmental or ecological conditions. It also agreed that if these issues could not be resolved, the principles should only be developed for risk assessment (paras. 103-107)
- Codex Standard for Canned Sardines and Sardine-Type Products. The Committee agreed to indicate its concern to the Executive Committee about the failure to comply with established procedures for the inclusion of sardine-type species under this standard and urged the next session of the Commission to conclude Clupea bentincki among the sardine species of the Codex Standard for Canned Sardines and Sardine-Type Products (paras. 108-114).
- Principles for Traceability/Product Tracing in the Context of Food Inspection and Certification Systems. The Committee agreed to propose to the CCFICS a series of principles for traceability/product tracing and agreed that no reference should be made to aspects relating to fair trade practices since traceability/product tracing should be used only as a risk management tool to ensure food safety (paras. 115-117)
- Codex Standard for Parmesan Cheese. The Committee agreed that the request for the elaboration of a Codex standard for parmesan cheese satisfied all the criteria established by the Committee on Milk and Milk Products for the elaboration of standards for cheeses, as well as the criteria for new work specified in the Procedural Manual and recommended that the 28th Session of the Commission approve as new work the elaboration of such a standard in the CCMMP (paras. 118-119)
- Food additive sweetener Stevioside (stevia). The Committee invited its Members to provide scientific data on stevioside, so that the JECFA could complete the evaluation of this substance and assign a full ADI for the CCFAC to be in a position to consider its inclusion in the General Standard for Food Additives (paras. 120-121)
- Elaboration of standards for tropical and indigenous products. The Committee recognized the need to work on standards of interest to the Region, for example indigenous products and fresh tropical fruits through the relevant Codex committees (para. 122)
- Food Safety Institute of the Americas . The Committee noted that this new institute could provide useful training and capacity-building activities in the Region (paras. 123-124).
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