Food Safety and Food Quality Standard: Codex Alimentarius

'Codex' is a word frequently used in the food industry, by consumers and by food regulators to denote a product, a process, and people. Evidence from the earliest historical writings indicates that governing authorities were already then concerned with codifying rules to protect consumers from dishonest practices in the sale of food. Assyrian tablets described the method to be used in determining the correct weights and measures for food grains, and Egyptian scrolls prescribed the labelling to be applied to certain foods.

Codex Alimentarius is Latin for food code and refers today to the international food code established under the United Nations. Codex Alimentarius is providing science-based food standards for use by governments and industry as references for national legislation, trade, and dispute settlement. The texts are developed and regularly updated by the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

In May 1963, the Sixteenth World Health Assembly approved the establishment of the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme and adopted the Statutes of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. Thus, the Codex Alimentarius Commission was born and its first meeting was held in Rome 25th June – 3rd July, 1963.

The purpose of Codex is to both protect the health of consumers and to ensure fair practices in food trade. This is achieved by developing international food standards, guidelines and codes of practice– directed primarily at the commercial actors in the food chain.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission has been supported in its work by the now universally accepted maxim that people have the right to expect their food to be safe, of good quality and suitable for consumption.

The Codex Alimentarius covers all foods (raw, semiprocessed, and processed). It contains general standards covering matters such as food labelling, food hygiene, food additives, and pesticide residues. It contains standards for specific foods. It also contains guidelines for the management of official import and export inspection and certification systems for foods.

To protect the health of consumers, provisions on food additives, contaminants and hygiene requirements form a central core of each standard. Codex standards and codes are supplemented by interpretative documents which prescribe basic principles or provide supplementary information.

Approved Codex food standards take many forms; from regulations on levels of food additives or limits for pesticide residues, to guidelines on nutrition labelling, food hygiene and antimicrobial resistance. Following these rules set by Codex, national governments and all food business operators, from growers to retailers, are able to ensure that food is safe in every home.

The significant contributions of Codex have historically centered on its effort to protect consumer health and safety; the Codex impact on international trade has been believed by many to be of secondary importance. While one of the major goals of Codex continues to be focused on consumer protection, recent events have brought new attention to the role of Codex in assuring fair practice in food trade.
Food Safety and Food Quality Standard: Codex Alimentarius

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