Codex Alimentarius is a driving force for ensuring food safety & trade standards during COVID-19, says FAO Director-General
Virtual 43rd session of the international body set to approve new guidelines & practices
24 September 2020, Rome – The Director-General of the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), QU Dongyu, today praised the work of the Codex Alimentarius Commission as a driving force for ensuring international food safety & trade standards, particularly amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Director-General opened the 43rd session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the United Nations body established by FAO & the World Health Organization (WHO) to protect consumer health & ensure fair practices in international food trade.
“Especially in the time of COVID-19, the world needs the international Codex standards that allow us to keep our food traveling safely across borders,” QU stressed. ‘’The last thing we need, in this already fragile situation, is an outbreak of a food borne disease.‘’
In this context, the Director-General congratulated the Commission on how it has coped with the COVID-19 pandemic, producing guidance for governments, the food industry & consumers together with experts from FAO & WHO.
In his speech, the Director-General also emphasised the importance of working together with Members, international organizations, civil society & the private sector to strengthen Codex. He noted that Codex standards & guidelines should always evolve to be more efficient, effective & tangible for farmers & consumers, as well as provide valuable guidance for governments & the food industry.
He also praised Codex’s commitment to develop their work based on science & evidence & encouraged the Commission “to explore the power of innovation & digital technology to continue your important work,” highlighting that Codex standards require a steady flow of real time data & information.
‘’As the pandemic evolves, we must ensure that trade continues to flow smoothly to contribute to food security & nutrition globally,” Qu said.
As examples of FAO’s recent modernization, the Director-General cited FAO’s Hand-in-Hand initiative & the proposed International Platform for Digital Food & Agriculture – an inclusive multi-stakeholder forum for identifying & discussing the potential benefits & risks of digitalization in the food & agricultural sectors.
‘’Digitalization is one area where FAO is well ahead of the curve & we are working relentlessly to harness the potential of modern technology for all those involved in food & agriculture,” he noted.
Furthermore, the Director-General reinforced FAO’s commitment to strengthen the work of Codex: “One of my first decisions in FAO was to allocate more funds to the FAO/WHO Scientific Advice Programme, which is the basis for Codex standards. That work is imperative & without it, Codex would be imparied we cannot let that happen.” Qu also gave the example of his home country China to highlight how “prioritizing Codex activities locally allows countries to build national systems & provides them a voice on the global stage.”
The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, also noted how the pandemic had highlighted the fragile links between the health of humans, animals & the planet. He emphasized the importance of collaborating with FAO on improving food safety standards & support.
Established in 1963 by FAO & WHO, the Codex Alimentarius Commission has 189 Members & 237 Observers. It meets annually to adopt food safety & quality standards & related recommendations.
The current session is being held virtually for the first time from 24 to 26 September 2020 & on 12 & 19 October 2020.
The virtual meeting will include decisions on General Principles of Food Hygiene; A Code of Practice on food allergen management & food standards for garlic, kiwifruit, cassava-based products, mixed zaatar, chili sauce & kava. It will also consider guidelines for supporting the development of harmonized food laws in Africa & others on the safe use & reuse of water in food production.