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Codex Advances Processed Cheese Standard Despite Lack of Consensus

Jul 08, 2015

The Codex Alimentarius Commission, a United Nations organization that develops international food standards, guidelines and codes of practice, convened in Geneva this week to consider several recommendations from its committees and task forces. Of particular interest to IDFA members is the Commission’s decision to adopt the proposed draft processed cheese standard at Step 5 of the Codex standard development process, and continue work to move it toward finalization by July 2016.

IDFA opposes the work on the standard because Codex has tried for more than a decade to revise the standard without reaching consensus on several key provisions, and IDFA believes Codex resources could be used more effectively in other important areas where standardization is more needed and feasible. 

IDFA also is concerned that a new Codex processed cheese standard would allow lower-quality “processed cheese” to be covered by the same international standard as high-quality American processed cheese.

“We have worked diligently to ensure that U.S. processed cheese and other dairy products are recognized for their high quality and will continue to do so in future Codex efforts,” said John Allan, IDFA vice president of regulatory affairs and international standards, who attended the meeting. Clay Hough, IDFA senior group vice president and general counsel, also attended the meeting.

The Committee on Milk and Milk Products, which conducted the work on the standard and is chaired by New Zealand, is now tasked with convening a committee sub-group meeting to proceed with work on the draft, and to consider holding a full committee meeting, if necessary, to resolve the outstanding issues. The committee is to complete work by July 2016, but several attendees noted that this deadline is unrealistic. 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.

rBST and Dairy Permeate Powder

 A draft standard establishing maximum residue limits (MRLs) in milk and edible dairy cow tissues for recombinant bovine somatotropin (rBST), a veterinary drug used in dairy cattle to increase milk production, was held up again from being finally adopted by the Commission to provide further time for developing consensus. Discussion of these MRLs has been on the Codex agenda for over 20 years. The Commission agreed that the standard will remain on future agendas until a decision can be made as to the fate of the standard.     

The Commission also agreed to begin work on a standard for dairy permeate powder and installed an electronic working group that will be chaired by Denmark.

The Commission comprises 185 Member countries, plus the European Union, and meets annually. Codex decisions on standards can have a significant impact on IDFA members that export dairy products, since many Codex standards are often adopted by importing countries and are used to resolve World Trade Organization disputes.

For more information, contact Allan at

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