Introduction to Codex

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.

The role of Codex

The Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex, or CAC) has established international standards and related texts for consumer health protection and international trade. This large body of work is called the Codex Alimentarius (Latin for “food code”).

Codex aims to:

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

The outputs of Codex include:

  • food standards for individual commodities such as 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, including codes of practice
  • guidelines for the design and operation of import and export inspection and certification systems
  • encouragement of increased coordination of work on food standards in governmental and non-governmental organisations.

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

Understanding Codex – Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN

New Zealand’s participation in Codex

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 to further areas of mutual interest.

Codex strategic plans

Codex strategic plans list the core strategic priorities for the organisation. They are the basis for the development of its work programme.

Codex Strategic Plan 2020–2025

Codex Strategic Plan 2014–2019

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 and is close to 190 members. The participation of developing countries has continued to grow and they represent most 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 the:

  • WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement (SPS)
  • 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.

WTO Sanitary and Phytosanitary Agreement

WTO Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement

Keeping up to date

It’s important to keep up to date with any new or revised information about Codex. Sign up to get MPI food safety news by email.

Subscribe to MPI

Other standard-setting bodies

Codex is one of 3 international standard-setting bodies that are important to New Zealand.

Find out about other international standard-setting bodies

Last reviewed: