Codex Food Labeling Committee Makes Measured Progress
Three key labeling issues received measured progress this month at the recent Codex food labeling committee meeting in Ottawa, Canada. At the meeting, 258 delegates representing 55 countries and 26 international organizations agreed to move forward, although with caution, on 16 draft cheese labeling standards, a new definition for trans fatty acids, and additives for organically produced foods.
The Codex Committee on Food Labeling (CCFL) considered the labeling sections of 16 draft cheese standards for approval but stopped short of endorsing them when objections to the proposed country-of-origin labeling provisions were raised. The provision states: "The country of origin (which means the country of manufacture, not the country in which the name originated) shall be declared. When the product undergoes substantial transformation in a second country, the country in which the transformation is performed shall be considered the country of origin for the purpose of labeling."
Although no consensus was reached, the committee agreed to forward the standards — with a note that the labeling provisions were not endorsed — to the general Codex commission for consideration and possible finalization at its meeting in July.
"We moved everything right to the finish line, but couldn't quite cross it in this round," said Cary Frye, IDFA's vice president for regulatory affairs. Frye led the International Dairy Federation delegation, which supported the new provisions.
According to Frye, the country-of-origin labeling provisions are necessary to provide consumers with clear information about where the cheese is manufactured and to avoid confusion with the geographical region where the name of the cheese originated. Although the proposed labeling requirement differs from U.S. regulations, the American and European cheese industries mutually endorse country-of-origin labeling to create a level playing field for cheeses in world trade.
"Several delegations, including the U.S. and its allies — Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Argentina — indicated that they need more time to study the provisions," Frye explained. "If they agree to the provisions before the commission meets in July, the cheese standards could still be adopted this year with the country-of-origin labeling provisions intact."
The committee approved all other provisions in the 16 draft cheese standards for brie, camembert, cheddar, cottage cheese, coulommiers, cream cheese, danbo, edam, emmental, gouda, havarti, mozzarella, provolone, samso, St. Paulin and tilsiter. In the last issue of News Update, IDFA reported that the Codex Committee on Food Additives and Contaminants recently endorsed the food additives provisions in these same cheese standards.
CCFL also reviewed a proposed definition for trans fatty acids. Frye's delegation successfully inserted a footnote that will allow reconsideration of labeling trans fatty acids information as new scientific data becomes available.
The approved Codex definition for trans fatty acids matches the current U.S. definition, with a footnote that states "Codex Members may, for the purposes of nutrition labelling, review the inclusion of specific trans fatty acids (TFAs) in the definition of TFAs if new scientific data become available." The global dairy industry requested the opportunity to re-evaluate the definition, anticipating future results from ongoing research that may allow trans fatty acids in milk to be excluded from labeling.
The committee agreed with recomendations to align the list of substances permitted in organic foods with the General Codex Standard of Food Additives and endorsed the list. The committee also decided on a timely process to evaluate substances pending review for permitted use in organic foods, including emulsifying salts for process cheese and propellent gases for whipped cream, which were requested by the dairy industry.
The next CCFL meeting is scheduled for April 30-May 4, 2007, in Canada.
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Posted May 15, 2006