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Food Safety Standards & Codex

This topic explains the various components of food safety standards and CODEX.

International food trade has existed for thousands of years but until not too long ago food was mainly produced, sold and consumed locally. Over the last century the amount of food traded internationally has grown exponentially, and a quantity and variety of food never before possible travels the globe today.

The CODEX ALIMENTARIUS international food standards, guidelines and codes of practice contribute to the safety, quality and fairness of this international food trade. The efforts are being internationally coordinated by Food and Agriculture organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

Need for food safety standards

International food trade is a highly complex, technical and administrative operation involving the global movement of a very large quantum and variety of food. Food production is scientifically-based. It is possible to transport food over long distances to arrive at its destination in a wholesome condition, without an appreciable loss of quality. Consumers worldwide now have access to a wider variety of high quality food in greater quantities than ever before. Codex standards enable consumers trust the safety and quality of the food products they buy and importers can trust that the food they ordered will be in accordance with their specifications.

Codex Alimentarius

The term "Codex Alimentarius" is Latin and means "food code”. Codex standards are international food texts, i.e. standards, codes of practice, codes of hygienic practice, guidelines and other recommendations, established to protect the health of the consumers and to ensure fair practices in the food trade. The collection of food standards and related texts adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission is known as the Codex Alimentarius.

Scope

The Codex Alimentarius includes standards for all the principal foods, whether processed, semi-processed or raw, for distribution to the consumer. Materials for further processing into foods should be included to the extent necessary to achieve the purposes of the Codex Alimentarius as defined. The Codex Alimentarius includes provisions in respect of food hygiene, food additives, residues of pesticides and veterinary drugs, contaminants, labelling and presentation, methods of analysis and sampling, and import and export inspection and certification.

Nature of Codex Standards

Codex standards and related texts are not a substitute for, or alternative to national legislation. Every country’s laws and administrative procedures contain provisions with which it is essential to comply.

Codex standards and related texts contain requirements for food aimed at ensuring for the consumer a safe, wholesome food product free from adulteration, correctly labelled and presented. A Codex standard for any food or foods should be drawn up in accordance with the Format for Codex Commodity Standards and contain, as appropriate, the sections listed therein.

Codex Alimentarius Commission

The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) was established in 1962 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) to implement the joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Program. The purpose of the Program is to protect the health of consumers, ensure fair practices in the food trade and coordinate international food standardization work. The CAC is an intergovernmental body, with 189 Codex Members made up of 188 Member Countries and 1 Member Organization (The European Union). India became the member of Codex Alimentarius in 1964.

Overview of Codex standards

Codex standards and related texts are voluntary in nature. They need to be translated into national legislation or regulations in order to be enforceable.

Codex standards can be general or specific.

  • General Standards, Guidelines and Codes of Practice : These are the core Codex texts and apply to all products and product categories. These texts typically deal with hygienic practice, labelling, additives, inspection & certification, nutrition and residues of veterinary drugs and pesticides.
  • Commodity standards : Codex commodity standards refer to a specific product although increasingly Codex now develops standards for food groups i.e. one general standard for fruit juices and nectars as opposed to one per fruit.

To access the standards, guidelines, Codes of Practice, Maximum Reside Limits, etc, click here.

Source: Codex Alimentarius, International Food Standards, FAO

Food Safety Standards in India

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has been established under Food Safety and Standards , 2006 which consolidates various acts & orders that have hitherto handled food related issues in various Ministries and Departments. FSSAI has been created for laying down science based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption.

Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India is the Administrative Ministry for the implementation of FSSAI.

The Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006

An Act to consolidate the laws relating to food and to establish the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India for laying down science based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import, to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

To access the Act and the regulations, click here.

Standards

Source: FSSAI

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