Codex Alimentarius

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The Codex Alimentarius is a collection of internationally recognized standards, codes of practice, guidelines, and other recommendations published by the Food and Agriculture Organization relating to food, food production, food labeling, and food safety.


Its name is derived from the Codex Alimentarius Austriacus.[1] Its texts are developed and maintained by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), a body that was established in early November 1961 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), was joined by the World Health Organization (WHO) in June 1962, and held its first session in Rome in October 1963.[2] The Commission's main goals are to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in the international food trade. The Codex Alimentarius is recognized by the World Trade Organization as an international reference point for the resolution of disputes concerning food safety and consumer protection.[3][4]

As of 2020, there were 189 members of the Codex Alimentarius Commission: 188 member countries and one member organization, the European Union (EU).[5] There were 237 Codex observers: 58 intergovernmental organizations, 163 non-governmental organizations, and 16 United Nations organizations.[6]


The Codex Alimentarius covers all foods, whether processed, semi-processed or raw. In addition to standards for specific foods, the Codex Alimentarius contains general standards covering matters such as food labeling, food hygiene, food additives and pesticide residues, and procedures for assessing the safety of foods derived from modern biotechnology. It also contains guidelines for the management of official i.e. governmental import and export inspection and certification systems for foods.

The Codex Alimentarius is published in the six official languages of the United Nations: Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Spanish and Russian.[7] Not all texts are available in all languages.

General texts[edit]

  • Food labelling (general standard, guidelines on nutrition labelling, guidelines on labelling claims)
  • Food additives (general standard including authorized uses, specifications for food grade chemicals)
  • Contaminants in foods (general standard, tolerances for specific contaminants including radionuclides, aflatoxins and other mycotoxins)
  • Pesticide and veterinary chemical residues in foods (maximum residue limits)
  • Risk assessment procedures for determining the safety of foods derived from biotechnology (DNA-modified plants, DNA-modified micro-organisms, allergens)
  • Food hygiene (general principles, codes of hygienic practice in specific industries or food handling establishments, guidelines for the use of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point or “HACCP” system)
  • Methods of analysis and sampling

Specific standards[edit]


The Codex Alimentarius has been the subject of various unfounded conspiracy theories. These theorize that it is an agenda for population control, an anti-supplement Big Brother initiative, actually establishes eugenics, or a process for World Government establishment.[8]

The controversy over the Codex Alimentarius relates to a perception that it is a mandatory standard for the safety of food, including vitamin and mineral supplements. Supporters of the Codex Alimentarius say that it is a voluntary reference standard for food and that there is no obligation on countries to adopt Codex standards as a member of either Codex or any other international trade organization. From the point of view of its opponents, however, one of the main causes of concern is that the Codex Alimentarius is recognized by the World Trade Organization as an international reference standard for the resolution of disputes concerning food safety and consumer protection.[3][4] Proponents argue that the use of Codex Alimentarius during international disputes does not exclude the use of other references or scientific studies as evidence of food safety and consumer protection.[citation needed]

In 1996 the German delegation, sponsored by three German pharmaceutical firms, put forward a proposal that no herb, vitamin or mineral should be sold for preventive or therapeutic reasons, and that supplements should be reclassified as drugs.[9] The proposal was agreed, but protests halted its implementation.[9] The 28th Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission was subsequently held July 4–9, 2005.[10] Among the many issues discussed were the Guidelines for Vitamin and Mineral Food Supplements,[11] which were adopted during the meeting as new global safety guidelines: The guidelines state that "people encouraged to select a balanced diet from food before considering any vitamin and mineral supplement. In cases where the intake from the diet is insufficient or where consumers consider their diet requires supplementation, vitamin and mineral food supplements serve to supplement the daily diet."[11][12] This text has been the subject of considerable controversy among proponents of dietary supplements. As of 2011, numerous studies demonstrated the range scale influences biological properties of materials and the nano-size range changes them substantially, an evidence which led to assume believable the hypothesis of an analogue range-scale conditionality for their toxicological properties, about which the safety of nanomaterials occurring in the foods, food-related materials or dietary supplements wasn't yet adequately assessed.[13] Many countries regulate such substances as therapeutic goods or pharmaceuticals or by some other category, without requiring them to be shown to be medically useful.[citation needed] The text does not seek to ban supplements, but subjects them to labeling and packaging requirements, sets criteria for the setting of maximum and minimum dosage levels, and requires that safety and efficacy are considered when determining ingredient sources. The United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) will implement these criteria with "labelling to stop consumers overdosing on vitamin and mineral food supplements." The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) has said that the Guidelines call "for labelling that contains information on maximum consumption levels of vitamin and mineral food supplements." The WHO has also said that the Guidelines "ensure that consumers receive beneficial health effects from vitamins and minerals."[12]

In 2004, similarities were noted between the EU's Food Supplements Directive and the Codex Alimentarius draft guidelines for vitamin and mineral supplements'.[14] Additional controversy has been expressed by proponents of ecologically and socially sustainable agriculture and food systems, such as the Slow Food movement,[15] although the Slow Food movement has become more closely aligned with the EU.[16] In addition, the Manifesto on the Future of Food stated that "bureaucracies like the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the Codex Alimentarius have codified policies designed to serve the interests of global agribusiness above all others, while actively undermining the rights of farmers and consumers".[17] The Joint FAO/WHO Committee theorized the use of food additives for the following purposes: (1) to maintain the nutritional quality of food; (2) to enhance keeping quality or stability, with resulting reductions in food wastage; (3) to make food attractive to consumers; and (4) to provide essential aids to processing."[13] The word "attractive" deals more closely with the appearance of foods (e.g. the flavor industry) than with the more expensive and not cost-effective improvement of their substantial and nutritional properties.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Codex Alimentarius: how it all began Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations website. Accessed 6 September 2012.
  2. ^ Codex timeline from 1945 to the present
  3. ^ a b Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures World Trade Organization. Accessed 3 September 2008.
  4. ^ a b Understanding the Codex Alimentarius[permanent dead link] Preface. Third Edition. Published in 2006 by the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Accessed 3 September 2008.
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ [2]
  7. ^ "CODEX Alimentarius: Understanding Codex". FAO and WHO. 1999. Retrieved 6 September 2012. Understanding Codex is available in English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and Russian version.
  8. ^ Rothschild, Mike (3 June 2013). "Codex Alimentarius: Book of Food or Book of Death?". Skeptoid. Retrieved 2 November 2019.
  9. ^ a b 'Health supplements: R.I.P.'. The Guardian newspaper, UK. Published 14 September 2002. Accessed 2 August 2008
  10. ^ Codex Alimentarius Commission 28th Session, FAO Headquarters, Rome, Italy, 4-9 July, 2005. Official report.[permanent dead link]
  11. ^ a b Codex Guidelines for Vitamin and Mineral Food Supplements
  12. ^ a b "UN commission adopts safety guidelines for vitamin and food supplements". United Nations News Centre. 11 July 2005. Retrieved 17 September 2012.
  13. ^ a b Bernadene Magnuson; Ian Munro; Peter Abbot; Nigel Baldwin; Rebeca Lopez-Garcia; Karen Ly; Larry McGirr; Ashley Roberts; Susan Socolovsky (2013). "Review of the regulation and safety assessment of food substances in various countries and jurisdictions". Food Additives & Contaminants: Part A. 30 (7): 1214, 1248. doi:10.1080/19440049.2013.795293. ISSN 1944-0049. OCLC 8145766001. PMC 3725665. PMID 23781843.
  14. ^ Rose Shepherd (29 February 2004). "Nil by mouth". The Observer, Guardian UK. Retrieved 17 September 2012.
  15. ^ "Slow Food International". Slow Food International. Archived from the original on 2012-09-05.
  16. ^ About us, Slow Food "Slow Food gratefully acknowledges funding support from the European Commission."
  17. ^ The International Commission on the Future of Food and Agriculture (July 15, 2003). "Manifesto on the Future of Food" (PDF). Archived from the original on June 2, 2005.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)

External links[edit]