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Codex News, 5 February 2016
Q&A interview with Greg Read, Chair of the Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems (CCFICS) as the 22nd session of the Committee gets underway in Melbourne.
Thanks for your time Greg.
Q. For those who don’t know you, could you remind us of what you do outside of Codex?
A. I am the First Assistant Secretary Exports Division within the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Australia – essentially the division maintains agricultural market access to a large number of export markets through the provision of export certificates for meat, fish, dairy and live animal exports. It also negotiates market access for these commodities being “food” which is why the international standards developed under Codex are so important to Australia’s agricultural interests.
Q. You’ve been Chair of CCFICS since the 10th session held in Brisbane in 2002. What progress/changes have you seen in that time?
A. The world of food imports has become more attuned to technical barriers – there is an ongoing tension within Codex to ensure the focus of its standards is food safety rather than barriers to trade. The work of this committee has become increasingly important to Codex members and in response, Australia is extremely progressive in the agenda we run and how we organise a meeting of around 200 participants and 70 countries in 3 languages to ensure we get the best outcomes ie standards and guidelines produced. Increased participation in Codex also means that as a Chair working towards achieving consensus can sometimes be challenging, but in my experience the use of informal workshops and allowing broad discussion on a topic can assist in building greater understanding and achieving consensus.
Q. In 1992 at its inaugural meeting the committee agreed that its principle responsibility should be to develop principles and guidelines for food inspection systems with a view to harmonizing methods and procedures that protect the health of consumers, ensure fair trading practices and facilitate international trade in food stuffs. How are we doing?
A. As I have mentioned already, this committee more than most provides the policy framework for the export and import of food. This committee in comparison to other committees produces more standards and guidelines, ensures very strong global engagement and is progressively always looking towards the strategic horizon to assess the next challenges in regard to the export and import of food.
Q. What are you looking forward to at this year’s session?
A. A longer format of 5 days (compared to 3 days) – 8 hours a day chairing plenary from Saturday. But the rewards I enjoy is the progress of internationally shaping food standards that have significant benefits not only for Australia but a range of other economies globally.
Q. In an ever more digital environment what direction do you see food inspection and certification systems taking? Where should we be in 10 years’ time?
A. paperless certification – real time system information – clearer focus on what’s important rather than custom and practice.
Q. Codex work is linked to both IPPC and OIE and of course the WTO. What opportunities do you see in these partnerships?
A. The closer these organisations work together the greater opportunity we have to ensure that we don’t have food safety risks across the supply chain. In simple terms safer food.
Q. What should countries be focussing on at the national level regarding CCFICS in your opinion?
A. looking beyond outdated inefficient and ineffective country practices to what is possible in a more progressive trading world. I love seeing trade and resist the thinking of those that seek to put up barriers, this is a great committee to see these dimensions up close.
Q. What special advice would you give to new delegates attending CCFICS for the first time?
A. Read the documents and also understand fully the concepts and structure the documents are seeking to put in place. Contribute, engage and get involved at every opportunity. Meet new colleagues and build international friendships that can last many years. Have fun!
Papers for the meeting are available to download from the Codex website. See: Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems 06/02/2016