The Food Industry Codex Coalition (FICC), a group of about 70 food companies and industry associations involved in communicating industry’s Codex standards interests to government, wrote a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack saying that although there is still work to do on certain issues, “it was clear that proactive US outreach, education and communication efforts helped build a strong coalition of Codex delegations committed to supporting the scientific basis of Codex standards and the WHO/FAO expert committees.”
The FICC also urged US representatives to continue their support for Codex work, even in the context of tight budgets.
“FICC members understand the Administration is facing critical budget decisions and, consequently, it is appropriate to emphasize the valuable contribution of Codex not only to protecting consumer health, but also facilitating fair food trade practices, and helping boost US exports and facilitate imports of needed products,” the group wrote.
It said that the value of US agricultural exports is on track to reach a record $137bn in fiscal 2011, but claimed that exports are restricted by “non-science-based measures that block market access for safe, high-quality US food and agricultural products”.
“International standards that are science-based and harmonized will open these markets, thus expanding US exports and increasing jobs. Strong US leadership and resources to support Codex are critical to achieving these goals," the letter said.
One of the major international areas of contention has been the labeling of genetically modified (GM) foods and setting a definition for biotechnology – an issue that was dropped from the agenda by the Codex Committee on Food Labelling in June, following years of disagreement.
In addition, the FICC noted in its letter to Vilsack that an ongoing dispute over the use of animal drug Ractopamine for meat-producing animals had not been resolved at the Geneva Codex Commission meeting in July.
The letter said: "The FICC urges continued, strong support of US engagement with Codex, including adequate and dedicated resources to continue international outreach efforts aimed at building support for science-based decision-making that will help US positions prevail in international standard-setting bodies and enhance US agricultural and food exports.”
The Codex Alimentarius Commission was established by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization and the World Health Organization and its internationally recognized food standards are used by the World Trade Organization to settle international disputes.
The FICC letter is available online here.