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Codex Alimentarius: new draft on front-pack labelling discussed but not adopted in Ottawa

OTTAWA, MAY 16 – The title of the document, “New guidelines of the Codex Alimentarius on front-pack nutritional labeling” concealed a new danger for the Italian agri-food sector that once again risked being penalized on international markets with “traffic lights” and alarm rankings. This risk was thwarted thanks to a concerted action of Italian diplomacy that kept in line the European Union, making sure that the text under discussion at the 45th Session of the Codex Committee on Food Labelling in Ottawa was not approved.

It took two days of intense negotiations preceded by a widespread preparatory work at the EU headquarters in Brussels and at the UN in Geneva. In Ottawa the support of the United States, represented by the Ministry of Agriculture and by the Food and Drug Administration, was crucial. Washington agreed that the labeling systems, if implemented, must be supported by solid scientific basis, as required by the Codex regulation. The document therefore was not approved: it will be discussed again in a year, a year and a half, diplomatic sources have indicated.

The Codex Alimentarius, or “Food Code”, is a collection of standards, guidelines and codes of practice adopted by the 188 Codex Alimentarius Commission members. The Commission, also known as CAC, is the central part of the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme and was established by FAO and WHO to protect consumer health and promote fair practices in food trade. It held its first meeting in 1963. Codex standards ensure that food is safe and can be traded. Its texts are a reference in WTO trade disputes, although not legally binding.

More than 30 FOPNL systems have already been adopted globally using a variety of approaches. They include the voluntary Health Star Rating in Australasia, the United Kingdom’s traffic lights, the Nordic Keyhole and France’s Nutri-Score. There is also increasing use of mandatory nutrient-specific warnings in Chile, Peru, Israel, and also under consideration in Uruguay and Canada. Approximately 250 representatives from 60 national governments, dozens of food industry associations, and a handful of officially recognized health and consumer groups attended the meeting.

Kathy Twardek, a Canadian, is the new chairperson of the Codex Committee on Food Labelling. She is passionate about food labelling as she explained in an interview ahead of the Ottawa meeting. “The two items in the agenda, labelling of non-retail containers and the guidelines for front of pack labelling, show some of the future direction of labelling, such as providing labelling information through other means than just the label and setting guidelines for countries to be able to develop labelling schemes to increase accessibility and awareness”. (@OnuItalia)

 

Alessandra Baldini
Alessandra Baldinihttps://onuitalia.com
Alessandra Baldini e’ stata la prima donna giornalista parlamentare per l’Ansa, poi corrispondente a Washington e responsabile degli uffici Ansa di New York e Londra. Dirige OnuItalia.

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