31 January 2013

Cameroon: Codex Fêtes 50 Years Food Standards, Safety

Codex Alimentarius Commission or Food Code, a combination of international standards on food items drawn up within the United Nations System has clocked 50. While waiting for the official celebration scheduled for the Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO, headquarters in Rome, Italy in June 2013, delegates from member countries taking part in the ongoing 20th session of the organisation yesterday January 30 took part in a forum on the theme, "Standards on food items and food security: Stakes and Challenges for Africa."

The forum and the session seek to sensitise African delegates and local authorities on the importance of international standards on food security and in enhancing international trade on food items within the context of liberalisation. It was also an opportunity for a public debate on the future of Codex Alimentarius, with regards to the stakes and challenges linked to its role in international trade of food items as well as to encourage member countries on the use of Codex Alimentarius standards and texts with national legislations, on the operational practices of companies dealing with food items and on the inspection and procedures.

Participants highlighted the importance of guidelines of import/export certification scheme of Codex when importing food items. "One of the essences of this Codex session is linking up with other African countries as well as using our websites to share information. If there is a country, for instance, that needs information on some aspects to do with hazard analysis and critical control which is a food safety tool, instead of perhaps going to the United Kingdom to bring a white man who may not know the African situation, you can use the websites of a countries to know if they have expertise in the domain," Kwamina Van-Ess, Food Safety Lead Consultant in Ghana, said.

Since 1963, the Codex Alimentarius or food code militates for the drawing up of standards, directives and international recommendations on food items, with the goal of protecting the health of consumers as well as ensuring the respect of the rule of law in the trade. In Cameroon, as at today, about 300 standards have been drawn up, 116 of which are in the food sector. Seven categories of food items are today serving as tools to evaluate conformity. They include, canned foods, fish and sea foods, vegetable foods, wines, liquor, soft drinks and milk. The ongoing session in Yaounde will end on Friday February 1, with the adoption of the report of the 20th session as well as the launching of the Technical Cooperation Programme in which Cameroon, Gabon and the Central African Republic are concerned. The programme was signed on Tuesday during the opening ceremony between Cameroon and Codex Central Africa in the presence of Prime Minister, Philemon Yang.

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