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FOOD AND HEALTH ESSENTIALS

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Codex Alimentarius Commission adopts new food standards

The Codex Alimentarius Commission has recently adopted a number of new international standards and codes of practice that will impact the safety of food around the world.

During its 41st session held earlier this month in Rome, the Commission adopted decision regarding six separate issues, as follows:

  • Maximum levels of methylmercury in fish — Elevated levels of methylmercury have been found in longer-lived fish species, and can have toxic effects on human nervous, digestive and immune systems. The Commission has established exposure limits for methylmercury for several fish species, including tuna, marlin and shark, ranging from 1.2 to 1.7 milligrams per kilograms of fish. 
  • Code of practice to reduce dioxins in food and food feed — Dioxin, dioxin-like PCBs and non-dioxin-like PCBs are persistent organic pollutants that can have a negative effect on human health. The Commission has updated the code of practice to include provisions for the management of non-dioxin-like PCBs, consistent with the findings of recent research on food contaminants.
  • Alignment of requirements addressing food additives — The Commission has approved a revision of the food additive section of the Codex in connection with 15 commodity standards to align them with the General Standard for Food Additives, including maximum use levels.
  • Maximum limits for pesticide residues in food — The Commission has adopted maximum residue limits (MRLs) for more than 26 different pesticides found in various food and food feed products. The new MRLs are based on a risk assessment completed by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meeting on Pesticide Residues.
  • Maximum residue limits for veterinary drugs in animal products — The Commission has also adopted MRLs for a number of drugs that are sometimes used in food-producing animals. As part of this effort, the Commission also determined that gentian violet, an antifungal veterinary drug, is not safe for human consumption, and that any residue of the drug should not be permitted.
  • Commitment to conduct further work on food package nutrition labelling and date marking — Finally, the Commission has agreed to develop a guidance for food producers on providing simplified nutritional information on consumer food products. The Commission has also revised its General Standard for the labelling of prepacked foods to improve the date marking and storage instructions.

The complete text of a press release detailing the results of the Codex Alimentarius Commission’s session, including links to specific details regarding the adopted changes, is available here.

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