The 37th Session of the United Nations food standards body Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) met in Geneva, Switzerland, in mid-July to examine food safety and quality standards. The Codex Alimentarius is a joint initiative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) and is comprised of 187 international government members establishing standards for food safety and fair trade practices globally. The American Feed Industry Association participates in the Codex process as an advisor to the U.S. delegation and as a member of a recognized non-governmental organization (NGO), the International Feed Industry Federation (IFIF), specifically advises on standards and issues, which are important to the feed industry. AFIA President and CEO Joel G. Newman serves as chair of the Policy Committee of IFIF.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) accepts the Codex standards as sufficient international standards that may be used by one country as requirements for products exported by another country. Setting standards above or below the Codex standards is justification (i.e. illegal trade barrier) for the exporting country to seek relief from WTO’s judicial process, and if the exporting country prevails, the importing country may be required to pay trade fines to the exporting country, unless the importing country has valid, recognized scientific data or justification for not adopting the Codex standard. This approach is rare.
The second Ad Hoc Task Force on Animal Feed was dissolved in July 2013, leaving no standing Codex committee with responsibility for animal feed. Issues related to animal feed are now to be taken up by existing Codex committees that have the same responsibility for food. AFIA is currently tracking and participating in six Codex committees that are working on feed related projects. Of specific interest at the 37th Session meeting in Geneva was a decision made by CAC regarding ethoxyquin.
In August 2013, at the 21st Session of the Codex Committee on Residues of Veterinary Drugs in Food (CCRVDF), two new compounds were recommended to be included in the priority list for a safety evaluation by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), one of which was ethoxyquin. Ethoxyquin residues have been causing issues in fish trade recently, which prompted the Philippines to request maximum residue limits (MRLs) be established. In the case of ethoxyquin, because it involves residue limits, the Philippines approached CCRVDF. Concern has been expressed by the priorities working group, the plenary session, as well as affected industry, that because ethoxyquin is not a traditional veterinary drug, but rather a feed additive used as an antioxidant, the CCRVDF is not the appropriate committee for ethoxyquin. Allowing CCRVDF to establish the MRL for ethoxyquin, which is not responsible for feed additives, sets a concerning precedent for other feed products.
While CCRVDF agreed to add ethoxyquin to the priority list, they were uncertain about their jurisdiction over products such as feed additives and requested the 2014 CAC confirm it was appropriate for the committee to consider an MRL for a feed additive. CAC, while noting that feed additives were not included in the CCRVDF’s terms of reference, believes that expertise exists in CCRVDF and its advisory body, i.e. JECFA, to develop recommendations for ethoxyquin. Therefore, the Codex Executive Committee supports the inclusion of ethoxyquin in the priority list.
Although the establishment of a MRL is probably warranted given the unscientific levels established by some countries, AFIA is very concerned about this precedent for the future.
For more information on Codex, contact AFIA President and CEO Joel G. Newman at firstname.lastname@example.org.