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INTERVIEW

“India is taking lead in standards”
Monday, 10 June, 2013, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
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With growing consumer awareness and involvement of developing nations in food safety dialogue, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the apex body for food standards in the world, is recasting itself to accommodate diverse views and propose a new strategic plan for 2014-2019.

In an interview with F&B news, Codex Alimentarius Commission's chairman Sanjay Dave spoke about issues such as its recasting for the plan and harmonisation of Indian food safety standards with the science-based food standards laid down by the Commission. Excerpts:

What are the priority areas for Codex?
This is Codex's 50th year, and we are mainly focussing on the finalisation of the New Codex Strategic Plan for 2014-2019 and the best way to achieve consensus-building amongst participating nations.

Currently, 185 nations and the European Union (EU) are part of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. So we would emphasise more on deliberations to arrive at consensus, so that the decisions would be applied universally and evenly.

What comprises the Codex Strategic Plan?
Basically, we want to further strengthen our procedure to formulate the standards, codes of practice, etc. by using more science-based models. Also the focus is on to make such standards, which fulfil needs of all the countries, ensure safety of the health of people and promote fair practices in food trade amongst the partner countries.

The plan also deliberates upon how the developing countries could be involved in capacity-building and also we would like to envisage an efficient delivery system that would help in harmonisation of standards amongst the member nations.

How much progress is made on the strategic plan?
We are deliberating on the next six-year strategic plan scheduled for 2014-19 for last two years. This year a series of meetings have taken place in different regional meetings. As you know there are six regions for Codex purposes. These are Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, North America and the South-West Pacific, Europe, the Near-East and Africa.

The various regions have made recommendations, which would be discussed in Canada this March. Later on a discussion would be held in the body's Executive Committee meeting (slated to take place in June), followed by deliberations by the Commission’s meeting scheduled in Rome in the first week of July.

Tell us about India’s role in Codex.
In the recent times, India’s participation has increased a lot. From just a member, India is now taking the lead in formulations of standards and even making suggestions for various commodities which were not there before.

For instance, India had proposed that a committee should be made for spices, as there were no standards for spices and other countries were supporting it. Even India is ready to host and bear the cost of the committee.

The proposal came late last year, so it was decided that India should make a discussion paper. This paper was discussed in regional committees for their observations, and a final decision would be made in the Codex Commission’s meet.

I am given to understand that there are a few other proposals from India, including one for the fixation of the maximum level of aflatoxins in ready-to-eat peanuts along with its sampling procedure, and quality standard for okra. There is also a proposal for a code for street foods for the Asian region.

India’s participation is part of larger involvement of developing countries through capacity-building and awareness regarding health and food safety.

In recent times, there has been talk about harmonisation of Codex standards with Indian food habits. What do you think about that?
Some products have Codex standards, but there are others, which do not. Like ethnic foods and street foods, FSSAI needs to look into the general guidelines or standards for the same and then harmonisation could be done wherever possible.
 
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