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Dairy Facts 2016

Codex Renews Efforts on Processed Cheese, Considers New Whey Permeate Standard

Jul 16, 2014

Two IDFA staff members traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, this week to attend the 37th Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the United Nation’s international food standard-setting body. Clay Hough, IDFA senior group vice president, and John Allan, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs and international standards, reported that the Commission took action on two items that are particularly relevant to dairy.

Processed Cheese

On Tuesday, the Commission agreed to continue work to develop a new Codex standard for “processed cheese.” After years spent to trying to come to agreement on specific product characteristics defining such products, without success, Codex agreed to a change tactics and attempt to develop a more general standard that will:

  • Provide a recognized standard for a range of products that are widely consumed in many countries;
  • Contribute to food safety by detailing appropriate methods of processing (heat treatment) and composition;
  • Ensure fair practices in the food trade by providing a standard recognized in both exporting and importing countries, and include labeling of significant information, such as ingredient declaration and product composition;
  • Satisfy needs of developing countries by providing a framework for more consistent national standards for processed cheese, and for a food with a relatively long shelf life with some products not requiring refrigeration; and
  • Help to avoid misleading consumers on these products and provide more transparency in international trade.

IDFA did not support the continuation of this work. “Our opposition was supported by the delegation of the United States, which publicly intervened against continuing work on the standard, stating that there was no evidence of safety or trade issues that would necessitate a standard,” said Hough. “Various Codex entities have attempted to create a consensus standard for over a decade without success. In fact, the effort to forge a general standard has also been tried before and did not work.”

Unfortunately, he said, numerous countries from Latin America, Africa and the Near East supported yet another effort, and many of these “flagged up” and spoke in support of a standard during consideration by the Commission.

In addition, the Commission agreed to reactivate the Codex Committee on Milk and Milk Products (CCMMP) to lead this work. New Zealand will continue to host and serve as chair of CCMMP. The delegation of Uruguay will help co-lead the work on processed cheese, which is planned to conclude by 2016. However, most of the same impediments that blocked the creation of a standard over the last decade still exist and will make creation of a new standard extremely difficult. IDFA will continue to participate in this process.

Whey Permeate

A proposal by Denmark to develop a Codex standard for Whey Permeate was also discussed. The Commission agreed to establish a working group within CCMMP that would revise the proposal and resubmit it to the Commission at its 2015 annual meeting for approval. If approved, CCMMP would then proceed in developing the standard.

IDFA is aware that the American Dairy Products Institute (ADPI) has recently prepared a whey permeate standard, which was developed with input from Danish industry counterparts. IDFA anticipates that this industry standard will serve, at least in part, as a foundation for the development of a Codex standard.

For additional information, contact Allan at

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