Food safety

37th session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission

What's new today?
Date: 15 July 2014

Maximum Levels for Fumonisins in Maize and Maize Products agreed by the Codex Alimentarius Commission
Fumonisins are toxins produced by certain mould that can grow on maize both in the field and after harvesting. Humidity, inadequate storage and insect damage can all increase the risk of fumonisin-producing moulds. The toxins have been reported in maize crops worldwide and have a negative effect on human and animal health. The Codex Alimentarius Commission has set maximum levels for the presence of fumonisins at 4mg/kg in raw maize grain and 2mg /kg in maize flour and maize meal.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission has agreed maximum limits for pesticide residues in food
Pesticides are chemicals used to kill insects, weeds and other pests to prevent them from damaging crops. Even when used according to best practices, low levels of residues of pesticides can end up in food. In order to ensure that such residues do not cause harm to people’s health and based on risk assessments provided by a group of independent international experts (Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meeting on Pesticide Residues, JMPR), the Codex Alimentarius Commission recommends maximum residue limits for the amount of a pesticide in a specific food, e.g. a limit of 0.02 mg/kg of bananas or coffee beans for the weed killer diquat, or a limit of 0.6 mg/kg in plums for propiconazole used to prevent mould growth.

Date: 14 July 2014

Codex Alimentarius Commission recommends to avoid residues of certain veterinary drugs in food-producing animals due to human health concerns
The Codex Alimentarius Commission has adopted a recommendation for the prevention of residues of eight veterinary drugs (including some antimicrobials and growth promoters) in animals producing meat, milk, eggs, or honey, due to human health concerns.

Code of hygienic practices for production, storage, transport of herbs and spices agreed by Codex Alimentarius
Products such as pepper, oregano and thyme go through a long process of primary production, processing (e.g. drying), packaging, storage and transportation before they reach the consumer. This exposes them to potential contamination with microbes (e.g. Salmonella, Clostridium), with chemicals (e.g. pesticides, heavy metals), and physical contamination (e.g. with stones, glass). The safety of herbs and spices can also be affected by certain moulds that produce toxins. The Codex Alimentarius Commission has adopted a new code of hygienic practice that will help minimize contamination, at all stages of the production, to assure that the spices that reach the consumer are safe.

Maximum levels of food additives agreed by countries at the Codex Alimentarius Commission
Additives are substances added to food or animal feed for a technological function, such as preservatives to keep food fresh for longer, antioxidants to stop food from becoming rancid and stabilisers to help mix ingredients. Additives also comprise colours, flavours and sweeteners. The safety of food additives is evaluated by an independent international expert committee (Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives, JECFA) before their use in food can be recommended. Based on JECFA’s safety assessments, the Codex Alimentarius Commission recommended a large number of maximum use levels of specific food additives in various foods, such as fresh pasta, frozen or smoked fish, frozen or fermented vegetables, and powdered infant formula, to assure consumers’ health.

Lead in infant formula: maximum levels agreed by the Codex Alimentarius Commission
Lead is a chemical that exists in the environment—in the air, water, plants, etc. If humans consume too much lead it is detrimental to their health. Infants and young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead. They can suffer profound and permanent adverse health effects, particularly affecting the development of the brain and nervous system, which can diminish their ability to learn. Infant formula contaminated with lead represents a particular risk because of the volume that infants consume. Levels of lead in infant formula can be controlled by sourcing raw materials from areas where lead is less present. The Codex Alimentarius Commission recommends that no more than 0.01 mg per kg should be permitted in infant formula as consumed.

Countries at the Codex Alimentarius Commission agree on maximum safe level of arsenic
Arsenic is a naturally occurring element in the Earth’s crust. It is present in many foods due to absorption from the soil and water. Rice in particular can take up more arsenic than other foods and due to its high consumption can contribute significantly to arsenic exposure. Long-term exposure to arsenic from drinking-water and food can cause cancer and skin lesions. It has also been associated with developmental effects, heart disease, diabetes, and damage the nervous system and brain. To protect consumers from excessive exposure, the Codex Alimentarius Commission recommends that the level of arsenic in rice should not exceed 0.2 mg/kg.