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Codex Committee Considers New International Label Standards

May 25, 2016
Cary Frye, IDFA vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs (pictured left) and Lyzette Lamondin, chair of the Codex Committee on Food Labelling.

Government representatives from 53 different countries met in Ottawa, Canada this month for the Codex Committee on Food Labelling, and addressed several proposed changes to its labeling standards. These standards are used as the basis for trade disputes and are adopted by some governments around the world.

Cary Frye, IDFA vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs, led the International Dairy Federation delegation attending the meeting. She was joined by other dairy-industry participants from Dairy UK and the Dairy Farmers of Canada.

Over the course of a week, the Codex Committee on Food Labelling advanced progress on revising the current standards for date-mark labeling, and agreed to start new work on labeling standards for non-retail packages and front-of-package labeling. The committee also finalized a regional labeling terms used for soybean products and decided not to revise standards for use of the term “halal.”

Date-Mark Labeling

The committee agreed to advance the proposed revisions to international date-marking, also known as “code-dating,” standards in Codex’s General Standard for the Labelling of Prepackaged Foods. This represents the fifth step in an eight step process for finalization. This rule standardizes the terms used on labels that describe date of manufacture and packaging, as well as “best before date” or “best quality before date,” and, when needed for safety, “use-by date” and “expiration date.”

Front-of-Package Labels

The committee also addressed the need for more information about global practices for front of product packaging before considering if an international standard for these labels is necessary. Currently, there are no international standards for any front of package labels, but a number of countries have implemented systems such as the “traffic light” labels in the United Kingdom. The committee agreed to prepare a discussion paper to inventory these and other government regulations and voluntary industry use of front-of-package labels for future reference.

Regional Labeling for “Soybean Milk” and “Soybean Beverage” Claims

Countries are able to submit a specific regional standards request to the commission to be internationally recognized. At the meeting, the committee endorsed one of these requests from Asia related to labeling of soybean products. The regional standard would require the product to be labeled as “soybean beverage.” Of particular interest to dairy companies, the committee made the distinction that only in special circumstances such as permitted by regional regulations will the term “soybean milk” be allowed.

Non-Retail Standards and Consumer Preference Claims

Additionally, the committee agreed to begin a project to look at the need to develop labeling requirements for non-retail food, which would apply to the packages of bulk ingredients and shipments of food. Currently, Codex’s labeling standards only apply to labels of products sold at retail. The committee also decided that consumer preference claims, such as “halal,” are out of the scope for the committee, and agreed not to proceed with revisions for terms of use for these claims.

Read the meeting report here.

Assembled by the United Nation and World Health Organization, the Codex Alimentarius Commission is the only international forum bringing together scientists, technical experts, government regulators, as well as international consumer and industry organizations to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in food trade. The Codex Committee on Food Labeling considers, amends, and endorses draft specific provisions for the commission, and meets every 18 months.

For more information, contact Frye at


L to R:
Luisa Candido, Dairy UK, Cary Frye, IDFA, Lyzette Lamondin, chair of the Codex Committee on Food Labelling and Pamela Harrod, Dairy Farmers of Canada.

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