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UN food standards commission meets


GENEVA -- New measures to ensure safer powdered infant formulae and hygienic egg production will be discussed by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), which opens a six-day meeting today attended by representatives from more than 100 countries.

The commission, in its annual session, is considering the adoption of several food safety and quality standards that countries depend on to safeguard the health of consumers, improve food quality and ensure fair practices in food trade. The commission is a body jointly set up by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and WHO.

More nutritious infant formula
Codex will reconsider the 1981 standard on infant formulae, which was based on scientific knowledge from the 1970s.

The revised standard for infant formulae and those for special medical purposes is based on the latest scientific understanding of the composition of breast milk.

“It is important to support breastfeeding and promote its benefits to infants and young children,“ said Dr Jorgen Schlundt, director of the WHO department of food safety, zoonoses and food-borne diseases. ”However, in some instances, breastfeeding is either not possible or not appropriate. In these cases, one of the dietary options is the use of powdered formulae”.

“Powdered infant formula is not a sterile product and can be contaminated with life threatening bacteria,” said Dr Schlundt. “It is extremely important that these formulae are safe and properly labelled. The proposed standard will help save many infant lives in countries around the world.”

Eggs and egg products
The commission will also be looking at a revised code of hygienic practice for eggs and egg products. They are a major source of food for people in all countries and there is significant international trade in these products.

However, eggs and egg products are a significant contributor to salmonellosis - a major food borne disease worldwide. Adoption of the revised code would improve countries’ capacity to produce safer product.

Making wine safer
Another draft code up for adoption would prevent or reduce Ochratoxin A contamination in wine. Ochratoxin A is a mycotoxin known to be toxic to the kidneys. The code would address all measures that have been proven to prevent and reduce contamination of wine across the production chain.

Regional Codex standards
The meeting will also consider new quality standards for three regional food products from the Middle East. Draft codes would, if adopted, set standards for canned tehina, a sesame seed paste, and hummus with tehina - a sesame seed and chickpea mixture common throughout the region. Another standard would apply to canned ful medammes, a popular broad-bean dish.

Technical assistance
The FAO/WHO Codex Trust Fund supported some 34 developing countries to attend the Codex Commission.

“FAO and WHO supports the efforts of developing countries to strengthen their national food safety systems to protect local consumers and to take advantage of international food trade opportunities. They also enable developing countries to participate more effectively in Codex work,” said Ezzeddine Boutrif, chief of the FAO Food Quality and Standards Service.

FAO and WHO will launch a Framework for the Provision of Scientific Advice and will also present the Global Initiative for Food related Scientific Advice during the meeting.


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