Dr David Jukes, The University of Reading, UK

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Food Law News - FAO / WHO / WTO / Codex - 2016

Codex News Item, 10 March 2016

WTO – Technical Barriers to Trade Meeting: Codex Input

The World Trade organization's Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement encourages members to base their technical regulations, standards, and conformity assessment procedures on international standards in order to facilitate trade.

Speaking at this week's TBT Committee meeting in Geneva, Codex Secretary Tom Heilandt recalled that "when standards and other Codex texts are adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission they are purely recommendations for application by host governments."

The Codex Secretary also explained that the uptake of standards depended, to a fair extent, on the strength of consensus achieved in the Commission and also on the national situation in countries who may require the use of a different measure. This measure would need to be justified by risk assessment in case of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures, but he confirmed that there was a less explicit link when dealing with trade.

"Not in line with Codex Standards"?

More than 20 recent cases have risen concerning food at TBT and on numerous occasions the statement "not in line with Codex standards" is heard.

Heilandt stressed that the absence of Codex guidance on a topic does not automatically mean that a measure is not in line with Codex.

He went on to give examples ranging from expiry date labeling, nutrition front of pack labeling and nutrition warnings as well as GM labeling and misleading claims on labels.

Nutrition claims

In highlighting ongoing work in Codex he confirmed that work on Codex nutrient reference values (NRV) intended for the general population for labelling purposes (in relation to the risk of Non-Communicable Diseases - e.g. asthma, diabetes, heart disease, cancer) has started to set the scene for "warnings" on labels. Codex has also developed extensive guidance on claims in general and especially health and nutrition claims (claims which should not be misleading to the consumer).

Implementing measures based on Codex standards

The Codex Secretariat is very open to discuss with any members who wish to implement a measure based on a Codex standard, also bringing the wealth of experience of the WHO & FAO legal advisers to bear. Contact Codex for further information via email:

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