GLOBAL – In its latest session, the Codex Alimentarius Commission has made significant strides in fortifying global food safety, introducing standards on the control of Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC), endorsing remote audits, and approving Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) for zilpaterol hydrochloride in various animal products.

Guidelines on Shiga toxin-producing E. Coli (STEC)

The newly adopted guidelines provide essential science-based advice for risk managers and food business operators. Focused on raw beef, raw milk, and raw milk cheeses, these guidelines equip the industry with practical measures to control STEC and reduce foodborne diseases.

STEC, known for causing human illnesses, has been associated with various food commodities, with beef, dairy products, leafy vegetables, and sprouts topping the list. Ongoing efforts are underway to extend control measures to fresh leafy vegetables and sprouts.

Water reuse and remote audits

To address the critical issue of water use in food production, the Codex introduced guidelines advising on suitable water types for different areas of the food production and processing chain.

The risk-based approach outlined in the guidelines enables producers, processors, and handlers to identify and manage water-related hazards effectively.

The commission also delved into modern technology, endorsing guidelines on the use of remote audits. These guidelines, when applied alongside other Codex texts, provide a framework for national competent authorities to oversee National Food Control Systems.

Embracing modern information and communication technologies, the guidelines outline seven principles for remote audits and inspections, emphasizing planning and implementation.

Global food standards and growth promoters

Amid the comprehensive updates, Codex approved Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) for zilpaterol hydrochloride in different animal origin products after a vote.

It’s noteworthy that Codex standards are voluntary, allowing countries the flexibility to adopt or disregard MRLs in their legislation.

The Codex revised the Standard for Follow-up Formula, bifurcating it into two distinct sections—supporting the growth and development of older infants (6 to 12 months) and outlining requirements for drinks or products for young children (over 12 months up to 3 years).

An inclusion in the General Standard for Food Additive for trisodium citrate in fluid milk (plain) has been made, albeit with restrictions on its use, limiting application to sterilized and UHT milk from bovine species.

Despite the milestone achievements, the Commission faced division on the use of zilpaterol hydrochloride in cattle liver, kidney, and muscle.

While 88 countries voted in favor, 49 opposed, and 11 abstained. The EU and the UK, where growth promoters are prohibited, expressed regret at the adoption.

China and Russia, among those opposing, voiced disappointment and regret at the outcome, citing concerns about the undermining of negotiation principles.

Looking ahead, the Commission outlined future focus areas, including guidance for marine biotoxins monitoring, a report on frauds in the fisheries sector, and food safety aspects of precision fermentation.

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