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Codex Decisions Bring Good News for U.S. Dairy Products

Aug 03, 2009

The Codex Alimentarius Commission, a United Nations-supported organization focusing on international food standards, convened in Rome last month to deliberate on several recommendations from its committees and task forces. Two of the commission's decisions will have particular importance for IDFA members. One will stop efforts to update the existing processed cheese standard, and the other will limit international trade of milk products using chemical compounds to enhance the antibacterial system that occurs naturally in milk.

"IDFA applauds the decision to abandon efforts to revise the processed cheese standard because, after eleven years of work, there have been no positive outcomes," said Allen Sayler, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs and international standards.

IDFA had opposed suggested revisions to the current standard that would have allowed lower-quality imitation cheese to be covered by the same international standard as high-quality American processed cheese. IDFA believes Codex resources will be better targeted in other areas and will continue working to ensure that U.S. processed cheese and other dairy products are recognized for their high quality in future Codex efforts.

IDFA also joined the U.S. government delegation and the International Dairy Federation in their opposition to the chemical enhancement of the natural lactoperoxidase system. These enhancements currently are used to preserve raw milk in developing countries where refrigeration is not always available.

"There are unresolved safety questions with these enhancements," Sayler said. "It would be very difficult to maintain the identity of these products and prevent them from being fraudulently mislabeled once they reached the international marketplace."

The commission ultimately decided to allow the international trade in these products only when both the exporting and importing countries agree to the use of the preservative treatment.

Other highlights of the meeting included the election of a U.S. government delegate to the commission's Executive Committee and the re-election of the CAC Chair Karen Hulebak, who is assistant administrator of the Office of Public Health and Science in the U.S. Food Safety and Inspection Service.

IDFA and its members have been active participants in the Codex process over the years. Just this spring, Sayler led the IDF delegation to the Codex Committee on Food Additives meeting held in Shanghai, China. IDFA Vice President Cary Frye also led an IDF delegation in May at the Codex Committee on Food Labeling meeting in Calgary, Canada. Deborah Van Dyk, vice president of industry and regulatory affairs for Schreiber Foods, Inc., served as chair of the IDF Standing Committee on Standards of Identity and led the U.S. dairy industry's efforts on the processed cheese standard.

For more information, contact Sayler at or (202) 220-3544.

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