The International Regulatory Organizations

A gavel.
Photo by qimono, c/o Pixabay.

The international regulatory organizations are effectively the police for the food world especially on additives. The three most prominent organisations are the Codex Alimentarius and the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives, and then the European Commission based in Brussels.

The Codex Alimentarius

Following the end of the Second World War it became apparent that international trade would expand rapidly. It was also clear that for trading to be effective required a set of food laws which harmonized all those national rules and regulations that each individual nation used. The first organisation addressing this issue was the Codex Alimentarius. It was started in 1962 by both the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) with the World health Organization (WHO).

The organisation has established generally acceptable food standards for a whole range of foods such as meat, fats and oils, frozen foods, soups and sauces, chocolate, coffee etc. These are all internationally traded food materials and ingredients. A set of international committees examines each food category. The various food committees are populated by global experts in their particular field and bring to the organization the most up-to-date knowledge and wisdom. In a stepwise manner, procedures and specifications are prepared for each of the different food items which are agreed upon and adopted. All member countries are obliged to accept the terms and conditions laid down in a set of international standards. That is certainly the case for any imported foods.

In the case of food additives which are often contentious, the advice of the Codex Alimentarius Committee on Food Additives is sought. the objective of this particular committee is to elaborate and propose standards for each of the food additives so that there is uniformity and harmony in the regulations. Where food additives are concerned, the committee can only be consultative, The final decision as to whether a food additive is permitted or not rests entirely with the committee for each food category. 

Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA)

The Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives has exclusive responsibility on the safety aspects of individual ingredients such as food additives. This group is also part of the FAO/WHO program. JECFA is usually requested by the Codex Alimentarius Committee on Food Additives for example to review at regular intervals the safety of additives and establish values for acceptable daily intakes (ADIs).

We will add the notes relating to the European Commission at a later date.

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