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Dairy industry gives Codex meeting a mixed review

By Guy Montague-Jones , 28-May-2010

A recent Codex meeting considering proposals on labelling additives and nutrients has received a mixed reception from dairy trade representatives.

In its report on the Codex Committee on Food Labeling meeting in Quebec, the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) said the labelling proposals focused on the levels of saturated fat, sugars, and sodium in foods.

Dairy verdict

Giving an industry verdict, Cary Frye, from the IDFA and the International Dairy Federation (IDF), said: “While we achieved a key win to not label additives that are used only as a processing aid, unfortunately there was little or no emphasis on labeling of nutrients that should be encouraged for good health or nutrition.”

The dairy industry won the argument to have ‘carrier’ additives, such as flavours and colours, considered processing aids, not food additives. The IDFA said the IDF also convinced the European Union to support its request not to add new class name labelling requirements for declaring ‘packaging gas,’ used with cheese and other foods.

WHO strategy

In general, the Codex committee focused on adding regulations to inform people about the fat, sugar, and sodium levels in their food. This emphasis is the result of a World Health Organisation (WHO) strategy aiming to reduce intake of added sodium, trans-fatty acids and sugars, and encourage a shift from saturated to unsaturated fats.

One proposal relates to increasing the number of nutrients that must be declared on food packs making a nutrient content or health claim. Codex regulations currently only require energy, protein, fat, and carbohydrates to be declared, but the committee is reviewing more specific additions. In particular, it is considering adding amounts of saturated fat, trans-fatty acids, total sugars and/or added sugars, sodium and dietary fiber on the label.

The IDFA said that although the IDF could not persuade the committee to exclude saturated fat from the list, the committee agreed to add a footnote that will require labelling for trans-fatty acids only under specific circumstances. To view the full IDFA summary of the meeting in Quebec, click here.

Codex standards are implemented on a voluntary basis but have influence on regulation in individual countries and are recognised by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) as reference points for the resolution of trade disputes.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) is the intergovernmental body, jointly sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), charged with developing the Codex standards.

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