- June 28 - Consumer advocacy organizations from the United States, Japan and
the United Kingdom called on the United Nations (UN) affiliate responsible for
food-safety and labeling standards to ensure that efforts to harmonize diverse
national laws on an international basis lead to higher, not lower, standards for
International Association of Consumer Food Organizations (IACFO), founded by the
Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the Japan Offspring Fund (JOF),
and the Food Commission UK, made the statement before the 23rd session
of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex) meeting in Rome this week. Codex,
a component of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization,
develops international food-safety and labeling standards. International trade
agreements obligate World Trade Organization (WTO) members to either use Codex
standards as national regulations or to provide scientific justification for stricter
- IACFO is calling on Codex
Many proposed Codex standards,
if adopted, could lead countries to weaken their laws to accommodate international
trade, said Bruce Silverglade, legal director of CSPI and President of IACFO.
- strengthen proposed standards
limiting lead and other contaminants in natural mineral water;
- narrow an international
list of approved food additives;
- allow countries that require
pasteurization of cheese to maintain such standards;
- issue standards for mandatory
- develop standards for quantitative
ingredient labeling of foods;
- maintain standards for
clear labeling of irradiated foods.
Too many of the standards
being considered for approval this week simply reflect a political compromise
between nations with high standards and nations with lower ones. Others were developed
to ease regulatory burdens on transnational food companies rather than provide
consumers with the highest level of protection, he said.
Codex standards should
be based on existing national laws that provide consumers with the greatest degree
of protection from unsafe contaminants and pathogens, and that provide for the
most complete labeling of nutrients, ingredients, and food-processing methods.
International harmonization of national regulatory requirements should lead to
higher, not lower, standards for consumers. Codex must change its priorities
or public support for free trade will erode, Silverglade warned.