Codex Alimentarius plans news guidance on food fraud

The Codex Alimentarius Commission has said it has started developing a new guidance on food fraud that is expected to be published in either 2024 or 2025.

The organisation – which sets out international food standards aimed at protecting consumers' health and ensuring fair practices in the food industry – has formed a working group that aims to update current guidance on food fraud with a single, unified document.

The working group will be chaired by the US, with co-chairs from the EU, China, the UK and Iran, and the work is expected to be completed in 2024/25.

The effort will be supported by the Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) industry group, which will work with the Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems (CCFICS) on the guidance.

"While there is some existing guidance that addresses fraudulent activities, there is a significant need for CCFICS, which deals with 'horizontal' issues, to develop definitions and update its guidance to better reflect current food fraud initiatives," said GFSI in a statement.

It added that the important thing is not to "reinvent the wheel", but to identify, collect and use existing work within the scientific, academic and regulatory communities to create a new standard.

The industry group wants the new guidance to stress the importance of  involving industry in food fraud management, clarify the roles of various Codex committees in the fight against the illicit activity, and make sure that it also covers feed for food-producing animals.

Codex notes that the olive oil scandal in the 1980s, the adulteration of milk in 2008 and the horsemeat fraud in 2013 all exposed the vulnerability of international food chains to fraud and organised crime.

A 2021 update on the issue concluded that legal interventions for food fraud could benefit from a standard definition for the activity in a statutory instrument.

It also recommended the use of vulnerability assessment and critical control points (VACCP) principles, new food standards and labelling rules, and the application of consumer protection legislation to cases of food fraud, when food safety systems are not more suitable.

It also discussed technological approaches to detect fraud, including handheld analytical devices for use in the field, nuclear techniques for spotting mislabelling of origin or process, DNA barcoding for species substitution, as well as blockchain and other digital traceability systems for traceability in supply chains.

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