Milestone Codex Meeting Produces U.S.-Supported Cheese Standards
Last month's Codex meeting in New Zealand marked a milestone for forward progress and U.S. leadership, according to Allen Sayler, IDFA's senior director of regulatory affairs and a member of the U.S. delegation at the meeting. The Codex Committee on Milk and Milk Products (CCMMP) finalized and adopted several U.S.-supported cheese standards, many of which had been under development for as long as 10 years.
"A huge amount of pending work that had been debated for years was completed, thanks in large part to extra effort expended by the leadership and members of the U.S. delegation before and during the meeting," Sayler said.
The CCMMP meetings, which are held every two years, draw representatives from more than 40 countries. Duane Spomer from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and John Sheehan from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) led the U.S. delegation, which also included Sayler and Sherry Marcouiller, chief counsel for food law at Kraft Foods. Dr. Dennis Keefe (FDA) was instrumental in gaining committee acceptance of the food additive provisions in all of the draft dairy standards.
Bringing 10 years of development to a close, the committee finalized standards for 17 individual cheeses: brie, camembert, cheddar, cottage cheese, coulommiers, cream cheese, danbo, edam, emmental, gouda, havarti, mozzarella, provolone, samso, St. Paulin, tilsiter, and whey cheese. Other finalized standards included evaporated milks, sweetened condensed milk and skimmed milk powder, all with vegetable fat (the "blends" standards). Additional work is still needed on Codex standards for dairy spreads, a new standard for fermented milk drinks, and food additives in fermented milks and creams.
Key U.S. positions adopted in the finalized standards include:
allowing the use of "safe and suitable ripening enzymes," requiring labeling the country of manufacture, which dampens European efforts to prevent certain cheese names from being used internationally, allowing cheese intended for further processing to be exempt from ripening criteria, and permitting 50% reduced-fat cheeses.
In addition, the wording in the Codex general standard for "cheese" was successfully finalized without establishing specific minimum protein content; it states, "the protein content in cheese must be significantly higher than the milk from which the cheese was made."
The U.S. delegation successfully stopped advancement of a draft standard for processed cheese, which it opposes because the draft allows for low cheese content, gelatins and starches, and includes cheese preparations and spreadable cheeses. As for a new Codex standard for parmesan, the U.S. delegation read a statement into the committee report expressing support for a Codex legal opinion that prevents European laws and directives from blocking development of dairy standards, allowing the committee to consider this subject at its next meeting.
The committee also made a recommendation to other Codex committees to maintain the protein conversion factor for milk protein at 6.38 for infant formulas and to exempt conjugated linoleic acid (CLAs) from trans fatty acid labeling. A generic export certificate for dairy products was advanced but not finalized.
IDFA is creating a new Codex committee for members interested in these issues. Click here for the related story.
To read the final official report of the Codex meeting, click here. For more information and details, contact Sayler at 202-220-3544.
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Posted April 10, 2006