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The ‘food code’ that boosts trade and benefits consumers

Published: 04/06/2020

From French wine, to Greek feta, to Italian pasta and everything in between, our excellent European food and drink is demanded all around the globe. It is no wonder that Europe is the world’s number one food and drink exporter with shipments worth €110 billion in 2018.

We are also great importers. Think of cocoa from West Africa, almonds from California or coffee from Brazil and you soon come to understand why Europe imports products worth €74bn every year.

Today the world is more connected than ever, and just as people can travel more freely from one end of the globe to the other, so too can food and drink products. It is through this trade that consumers are exposed to different raw ingredients and recipes, bringing great diversity and enjoyment to our diet.

But given differing production standards around the world, alongside complex and long trading routes, how do we know our food is always safe to eat?

First up, nations and regions have their own food safety standards to protect public health. But globally, there is also a common understanding of food safety principles underpinned by the Codex Alimentarius, which translates as the ‘food code’. 

Codex is a joint program of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) consisting of standards and recommendations to ensure food safety.

Codex is where nations and other stakeholders come together to discuss issues such as food hygiene, additives, pesticides, and contaminants. The forum provides an opportunity to share knowledge and ensure a global best practice for all nations to follow.

For the food and drink industry, that operates a truly global food supply chain, predictable, science-based and harmonised rules are very important. The main hindrance to international trade comes when businesses have to comply with differing food safety standards across countries. The harmonisation of rules – like within the Single Market – helps ensure fair and thriving trade which is good for farmers and consumers alike.

We believe Codex needs to be given more resource and capacity to continue building a harmonised approach to food safety standards and to align different practices that exist around the world, hampering trade.  

I am always very happy to see my favourite product on the shelves in a remote country, as well as exploring global products in my local store, knowing that safety has been the top priority. A fully functioning, science-based Codex will continue to give all consumers that diversity. 

Read more about how the food and drink industry ensures food safety in this excellent article by Rebeca Fernandez.