The decision, among others, came during the 39th annual meeting of the commission, held between June 27 and July 1 at the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome, Italy. These guidelines show how the international organisation can be influential in crafting and approving global meat and livestock standards.
The salmonella guidelines give a 27-step food chain process for beef and pork indicating ways to prevent, reduce or eliminate the spread of the bacteria from farm to fork.
The guidelines will now be added to the Codex Alimentarius - the global rule book for food standards, guidelines, and codes of practice. The Codex is recognised by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as an international benchmark against which national measures and regulations are evaluated. As a result, what it says often ends up in regional and national agreements and legislation worldwide.
The meeting of the Commission – essentially the ruling body of the Codex system - brought together members of this joint FAO/World Health Organisation (WHO) intergovernmental body made up of 187 member nations plus the European Union (EU), as well as observers from 57 intergovernmental organisations (IGOs), 165 non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and 16 UN organisations. With its membership, the Codex Alimentarius Commission now represents over 99% of the world’s population.
The Commission’s adoption of the salmonella guidelines is a good example of how the system works. It marks the completion of a formal step process (made up usually of eight steps but sometimes, as in this case, accelerated to five), by which the Commission accepts proposals for new standards or other texts that ultimately becomes part of the Codex Alimentarius, a Latin name that means ‘food code’.
Often referred to simply as ‘Codex’, it was first established by the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme in 1963, and it aims to harmonise food standards on a global level in order to protect consumer health and promote fair practices in food trade. The recently adopted salmonella guidelines had been under discussion for the past two years in the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene (CCFH), one of Codex’s 10 general subject committees.
As with all Codex texts, now that the specific guidelines have been adopted, Codex member countries will decide how to implement them back home, said Annamaria Bruno, senior food standards officer with the Codex Secretariat.
“The standards of the Codex text are voluntary: there is no obligation for the members of Codex to apply Codex standards,” Bruno said. “But a country can say I’ll use this standard as the basis for my regulations,” she said.