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Codex Committee Makes Progress on International Labeling Standards

Oct 25, 2017
Cary Frye, IDFA senior vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs, (second from left) joins International Dairy Federation members attending the meeting.

Cary Frye, IDFA senior vice president of regulatory and scientific affairs, joined representatives from 46 different countries last week in Asunción, Paraguay, for a Codex Committee on Food Labeling meeting to address several proposed changes to international labeling standards. These standards are used as the basis for arbitrating trade disputes and are utilized by governments around the world.

Frye led the International Dairy Federation delegation that attended the meeting. The committee completed work on international date-marking standards, reached a consensus to begin working on voluntary front-of-pack labeling standards, finalized standards for labeling of some dairy products and agreed upon areas of new work.

Date Marking

The committee agreed to advance proposed revisions to text on international date marking, also known as code-dating, included in Codex’s General Standard for the Labeling of Prepackaged Foods. This action represents the committee’s eighth and final step to complete the standard. This rule standardizes the terms used on labels that describe the date of manufacture and packaging, as well as the “best before date” or “best quality before date” and, when needed for safety, “use-by date” and “expiration date.” The standard will now move to the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) to be approved.

Front-of-Pack Labeling

Representatives from several countries and non-governmental organizations expressed broad support for developing guidance on the use of simplified nutrition information labels on the front of food packages. 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 or the Facts Up Front voluntary labeling initiative implemented in the United States. At the meeting, the committee's Electronic Working Group provided a discussion paper that provided an overview of 17 different front-of-pack labeling systems used in 23 different countries.

Dairy industry representatives and U.S. government officials stressed that any front-of-pack standard should be voluntary and flexible enough to include the many systems currently in use internationally.

The committee agreed to start new work to develop draft guidelines on front-of-pack labeling systems with this input.

Dairy Permeate Powders and ‘Doogh’

The committee endorsed labeling provisions for the Codex Standard for Dairy Permeate Powder. This July the CAC adopted the standard, which has been under development over the past few years and was strongly supported by IDFA, the entire U.S. dairy sector and the U.S. government. Also, the labeling provisions agreed to by the Regional Codex Committee for the Near East were approved for “Doogh,” which is a type of fermented milk beverage.

New Work

The committee also agreed to consider new work on labeling provisions for six different topics:

  • Internet sales and e-commerce;
  • Allergen labeling;
  • Innovation and the use of technology in food labeling;
  • Alcoholic beverage labeling;
  • Criteria for the definition of “high in” for use with nutritional descriptors such as fats, sugars and sodium; and
  • Labeling of foods in joint presentation, in multipack format and in promotional items.

About Codex

The Codex Alimentarius, or "food code," is a collection of standards, guidelines and codes of practice adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC). Assembled by the United Nations and World Health Organization, the CAC 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

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