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Environment/Natural Resources

[Published: Tuesday July 07 2009]




Dangerous bacteria and chemicals targeted by WHO and FAO


Rome, 07 July – (ANA) –The Codex Alimentarius Commission, jointly

established in 1963 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the

United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), concluded

a weeklong meeting and adopted more than 30 new international

standards, codes of practice and guidelines to improve worldwide food

safety and protect the health of consumers. The organisation aims at

developing international food standards that protect the health of

consumers and ensure fair trade practices in the food trade. The

Commission has 181 member states and one member organization, the

European Community.


Amongst the new standards adopted by the commission is the reduction of

Acrylamide – a chemical first identified in food in 2002, produced

during frying, roasting and baking of carbohydrate-rich foods, such as

French fries, potato crisps, coffee, biscuits, pastries and breads and

considered a possible human carcinogen- in foods. . The guidance

includes strategies for raw materials, the addition of other

ingredients; and food processing and heating.


The commission also pledged the reduction of contamination with

polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) through final food preparation.

Parts of PAH are possible human carcinogens formed during the

combustion of fuel both in the smoking and in the direct drying

processes involved in=2

0the preparation of foods. The guidance can also

form the basis of consumer education programs as smoking and direct

drying are also used in private households.


Another standard adopted by the commission is the guidance to coffee

producing countries in order to prevent and reduce Ochratoxin A (OTA)-

a fungal toxin also considered a possible human carcinogen-



It also adopted criteria for salmonella and other bacteria in powdered

follow-up formulae for children six months of age or older and for

special medical purposes for young children. The Commission decided

that in countries with particular risk for E. Sakazakii – one

particular bacterium for which Codex adopted specific criteria for

powdered formula for infants- from consumption of follow-up formulae

(i.e. countries with substantial populations of immunocompromised

babies) similar criteria for E. sakazaki could be introduced for

follow-up formula as for powdered formula for infants. The standard

stresses the need to address the product misuse by infants younger than

six months old of age through education campaigns and training.


Parameters for microbiological testing and environmental monitoring for

Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods were among the other

measures adopted by the commission. The bacterium can cause

listeriosis, which, even if rarely contracted by healthy people, can

cause miscarriages and stillbirths, as well as serious and sometimes

fatal infec

tions in those with weakened immune systems, such as

infants, the elderly and persons with HIV infection or undergoing

chemotherapy. A maximum level was set for certain foods where the

bacteria cannot grow, while in ready-to-eat products where growth is

possible, no Listeria monocytogenes will be allowed.


Other new work proposals adopted by the Commission include giving

principles and guidelines to assist governments in the development and

operation of comprehensive national food control systems that protect

the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in the food trade;

implementing practices to control viruses in food, especially

norovirues (NoV) and hepatitis A (HAV) in fresh produce, mulluscan

shellfish and ready-to-eat foods, the prevention of aflatoxin (toxic

substances produced by moulds and known to cause cancer in animals),

setting maximum levels and defining sampling plans for Fumonisins,

(toxic substances produced by fungi) in maize and maize products and

setting regional standards for ginseng products, fermented soybean

paste and gochujang.


“The standards and guidelines adopted this week will make a positive

impact on the lives of people around the world,” said CAC Chairperson

Karen Hulebak. “The Commission is working faster than ever before to

address the most pressing food safety challenges we face.”


Ezzeddine Boutrif, FAO Director, Nutrition and Consumer Protection

Division, noted that Codex membership no

w represents 99 percent of the

world’s population. “Applying Codex standards and guidelines are an

important part of ensuring that consumers in every part of the world

can be protected from unsafe food,” he said.


Approximately 500 people, representing 125 countries, participated in

the Commission meetings. Karen Hulebak of the United States was

re-elected Chairperson; Knud Østergaard of Denmark, Sanjay Dave of

India and Ben Manyindo of Nigeria were re-elected Vice-Chairpersons.



SL/ANA/07 July 2009 ---

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