Commission develops new food labelling standards

The Codex Alimentarius Commission, a UN International Food Standards-Setting Body, is set to release new guidelines on food labelling to provide simplified nutritional information to consumers to enable them make healthier food choices.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on its Twitter Handle @WHO said that developing this guidance was very important as it would stop increased incidence of obesity and some non-communicable diseases.

WHO said that the commission has also revised the general standard for labelling of repackaged foods and improving date marking and storage instructions.

It said that date marking whether indicating date of manufacture, packaging, best before, use by or expiration, should provide reliable information to consumers.

WHO said that it should also ensure food safety and prevent food waste.

It assured however that the commission was working to ensure that it avoided creating unnecessary obstacles to the food trade while developing and implementing the new standards.

“The commission agreed to undertake new work to develop a guidance on providing simplified nutrition information to consumers to enable them identify healthier food choices while avoiding creating unnecessary obstacles to the food trade. Food labelling bearing this information is an important tool to help stop the increased incidence of obesity and some chronic non-communicable diseases.
These are part of the new International Food Safety Standards protecting consumer health and ensuring fair practices in trade,” it said.

WHO said the commission has also set new limits for contamination of the naturally occurring contaminant found in chocolate to protect consumers against high exposure to cadmium.

It said that cocoa beans used in the production of chocolate could take up high levels of cadmium from the soil and water, stating that this contaminant could remain in the human body for a long time.

According to WHO, higher intake of cadmium is linked to kidney damage, while limiting cadmium levels in chocolate can ensure exposure to the contaminant is not too high.

It said that to protect against high exposures of lead, the commission has also set new limits for contamination of heavy metal found in food as it was detrimental to human health.

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“To protect against high exposures of mercury, the commission has set new limits for methylmercury found in fish. Fish that live for a long time and are higher in the food chain have raised levels of methylmercury in their bodies. Mercury can have toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune system of humans and on lungs, kidney, skin and eyes.
“To reduce exposure to methylmercury, the commission set limits for several fish species ranging from 1.2 to 1.7 mg per kilogram of fish. This includes no more than 1.2 mg of methylmercury per kilogram of Tuna, 1.5mg per kilogram of Alfonsino, 1.7mg per kilogram of Marlin and 1mg per kilogram of Shark.”

The commission is an intergovernmental body with over 180 members within the framework of the Joint Food Standards Programme established by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the UN.

The commission was set up to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in the food trade.

Its primary responsibility is also to promote coordination of all food standards work undertaken by international governmental and non-governmental organisations.

The commission works to provide guidance on general labelling of foods and the health or nutritional claims producers make on labels.

It ensures that consumers understand what they are buying and that it is what it says it is.

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