NEPAL – The Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), an international food standards body established jointly by the Food and Agriculture organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), has organized an advocacy and training workshop on codex and food safety in Nepal.
The main objectives of the five-day intensive programme were to train a critical mass of officials from different agencies on Codex, to impart practical knowledge and experience through a mock-drill exercise and to identify priority follow up actions.
The training workshop followed by a policy and advocacy meeting, quiz and mock-drill exercise, simulating a Codex Committee meeting. The face-to-face interactive workshop was organized following covid protocols and all participants had received a full course of covid vaccinations.
Bhutan, India and Nepal have been implementing a Codex Trust Fund (CTF) group project since 2019. One of the major challenges the project is addressing is limited technical knowledge and expertise to run a functional National Codex Committee and participate actively in the Codex standard setting process.
Nepal has been facing challenges to meet requirements for the export of indigenous agri- products such as ginger and cardamom. These advocacy and training workshops were particularly important as Nepal has embraced a federal system and there is a frequent transfer of policy makers and food safety officials.
Since food safety is a shared responsibility, 26 participants from different ministries and line agencies working in food safety area were selected. The training was focused on the importance of Codex in setting national food standards, its impact on fair trade practice and consumer health protection, harmonization of food standards for import, export as well as domestic production and consumption.
Hands-on sessions were organized to impart practical experience on the Codex online commenting system and to promote active participation in physical and electronic working groups. A pre-training evaluation was conducted where only four percent of participants scored 8 out of 10 whereas the post-training evaluation was amazing with 74 percent of the participants achieving the high eight score.
Mr. Sanjay Dave, an encyclopedia of Codex and former chairperson of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, spent hours with participants in informal discussions on Codex and food trade. Similarly, Mr. Perumal Karthikeyan from the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) provided practical training on the Online Commenting System (OCS) and effective participation in physical and electronic working groups.
The best part of this workshop was the mock-drill exercise to gain practical experience in effective participation in Codex Committee meetings. The Codex committee was run by an all-women team during the mock-drill exercise and they performed excellently according to Mr. Sanjay Dave. One participant commented that it was the best training workshop they had attended – despite the hectic schedule.
A series of Codex workshops under CTF have raised awareness at policy, professional and public levels. A Food safety and Quality Bill, which was on hold for many years, is now under consideration in the Nepalese parliament.
Interaction with parliamentarians as a part of the CTF project in April 2021 was critical to explain Codex’s role in fair trade practice and consumer health protection which has been the basis for the formulation of the new bill.
As so many participants demonstrated their ability and interest to actively participate in Codex Committee meetings during the mock-drill exercise, it is suggested countries create groups for the food commodities of national priority and work on developing country positions ahead of Codex meetings including new work proposals.