International food safety standards are coordinated through the Codex Alimentarius Commission. New Zealand is an active participant. Codex plays a pivotal role in developing international standards for health protection and ensuring fair practices in food trade.

About Codex

Codex refers to the activities of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC). Codex has established a large body of international standards and related texts for use by member countries for consumer health protection and international trade. This compilation of standards is called the Codex Alimentarius (Latin for ‘food code’).

The Commission aims to:

  • protect the health of consumers
  • ensure fair trade practices.

The outputs of Codex include:

  • setting food standards for individual commodities. For example, milk, meat, fruit and vegetables
  • maximum limits for residues of pesticides and veterinary drugs in food
  • standards and guidelines for food hygiene, nutrition and labelling. This includes Codes of Practice (COPs)
  • guidelines for design and operation of import and export inspection and certification systems
  • encouraging coordination of work on food standards in governmental and non-governmental organisations.

Codex also provides an important forum for discussion of contemporary and emerging food safety issues.

New Zealand participates in Codex by:

  • attending meetings of international Codex committees that are of greatest interest and significance to New Zealand
  • leading international standards work in areas of particular interest
  • collaborating with other members of Codex to further areas of mutual interest

You can find out more information about Codex by downloading an introduction prepared by the WHO.

Codex strategic plan

The Codex Strategic Plan for 2014-2019 articulates the core strategic priorities for the organisation and provides a sound basis for the development of its work programme.

How Codex works

The work of Codex is carried out by subsidiary bodies grouped into:

  • commodity committees
  • general subject committees
  • ad hoc task forces
  • regional coordinating committees.

The Executive Committee, comprising the Chair, 3 vice chairs, 6 regional coordinators and 7 regional representatives, serves as a strategic and standards management body. The Commission is the final decision-making body within the Codex system and generally meets once a year to adopt international standards.

Belonging to Codex

Membership of Codex has been growing steadily in recent years and is close to 190 members. The participation of developing countries has continued to grow and now represents a majority of the membership of the organisation.

You can find out more about Codex membership and activities on the CAC website.

Codex and the World Trade Organization (WTO)

As one of the 3 recognised international standards-setting bodies, Codex is critical to advancing the objectives of 2 WTO agreements:

  • the WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement (SPS)
  • the Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement (TBT).

These Agreements are mutually reinforcing and provide a strong framework of rules and disciplines for technical standards and regulations at national and international levels.

Keeping up to date

It’s important to keep up to date with any new or revised information about Codex. Sign-up to our Subscriptions email list to receive the latest MPI food safety news by email.

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