The Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex) is the international food standards setting body established by the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization. Codex develops international food standards, guidelines and codes of practice for an international food code that contributes to the safety, quality and fairness of food trade.
Codex, which coordinates input from 188 member countries and the European Union, has a mandate to
- protect the health of consumers;
- ensure fair international food trade; and
- develop standards based on sound scientific principles.
Codex standards are recognised by the World Trade Organization (WTO). As a WTO member, Australia is obliged, where possible, to harmonise its domestic regulations with Codex standards such as food additives, pesticide residues and veterinary drugs.
FSANZ takes Codex standards into account when developing and revising domestic food standards.
How does FSANZ provide input to Codex?
The Australian Government contributes to the work of Codex through various government agencies including FSANZ. FSANZ contributes significantly to the work of a number of Codex committees as a member and, for some committees, as leader of the Australian delegation.
FSANZ currently leads the Australian delegation to the committees on Food Additives (CCFA), Contaminants in Food (CCCF), Food Hygiene (CCFH), Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses (CCNFSDU) and the Task Force on Antimicrobial resistance (TFAMR).
In Australia, Codex input is coordinated by Codex Australia, hosted by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.
Why are some chemical limits in the Food Standards Code different to Codex limits?
Codex develops international standards relating to the maximum levels of certain substances in foods such as food additives, contaminants and other substances. However, these limits can still differ from country to country, due to different dietary patterns, environmental conditions and national practices.
For example, Australia’s Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority sets maximum residue limits (MRLs) for agricultural and veterinary chemicals according to good agricultural practice (GAP) or good veterinary practice (GVP). In some cases, these limits may differ from those set by Codex because our pests, diseases and environmental factors are different from those of other countries.
Foods consumed in Australia vary to other countries, and not all maximum levels established by Codex will be relevant in Australia. For example, Codex has established a maximum level for a certain contaminant in cassava flour, which forms part of the staple diet in some developing countries. Cassava flour is not commonly consumed in Australia so we do not have a maximum level for it in our Code. However, when establishing maximum levels, Australia will take into account those set by Codex, where appropriate.
APVMA information on MRLs for agricultural and veterinary chemicals