UN Bodies Adopt New Food Safety Standards

"Many times, we have this misperception that all the food produced in developed countries is very safe, and it is very unsafe in developing countries," Jorgen Schlundt, head of WHO's Food Safety Division, was quoted by the news media as saying. "This is actually not the case. We have a number of examples where foods produced in developed countries can be more dangerous than food produced in developing countries."

The World Health Organization says millions of people in developed or developing countries die or get seriously ill from contaminated food every year. For example, Schlundt said, more dioxins are emitted into the environment by industries located in developed countries. He noted that these substances, which are highly toxic and can cause cancer, can contaminate food and animal feed.

The 500 Codex Alimentarius Commission delegates from 100 countries also set maximum limits for lead in fish and cadmium in rice. Lead can cause a wide range of disorders, including anemia, and cadmium can cause kidney damage. Measures were also adopted to reduce the risk of aflatoxin contamination of Brazil nuts. Aflatoxin can cause liver cancer. They created a Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance.

Although countries are not obligated to comply with the new recommendations in the Codex, Schlundt says implementing them will not only benefit people's health, but also trade. Codex Standards form the basis of food legislation in many countries and are recognized as international benchmarks by one of the multilateral agreements of the World Trade Organization.

"If a developing country takes some of these Codex rules or recommendations and puts them in force into their own legislation, they will help their own consumers having a better health, and they will help their export capacity to export to other countries," he said.


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