Codex 60 years — The uniqueness of Codex
As this year comes to a close with a successful conclusion of the 46th Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission, the uniqueness of Codex stands out.
There is a famous beer commercial which claims its beer ‘goes places where no other beer goes’. After working on Codex-related issues for over 15 years, I must say, in many ways Codex is like that beer – it does things which no other entity can do.
During Codex’ 60th year, it is also worth contemplating what exactly it is that makes Codex unique. In fact, its uniqueness is the combination of five facets. Each of these on their own may not be particularly special, but the combination of them together is what makes Codex unique.
- Most obviously, there is no other organization that sets global standards in the food/trade area. The standards adopted may not always be the exact ones desired by each country/observer, but they are legally recognized at global level, and therefore carry immense weight, and are of immeasurable value to countries, consumers and food/agriculture chain operators.
- The way the standards are set through the step process has been fine-tuned over many years. It is a complex and at times frustratingly slow process, yet the careful following of the process means that the result is balanced and gets the support of almost all.
- The strict adherence to science as the basis for decision-making, has, time and time again shown its value. Codex has been good at balancing some members’ need for political statements, whilst not allowing these to affect scientifically based standards.
- Codex relies heavily on volunteer time from thousands of experts, officials, and observers. There are few global set-ups where so many people devote so much of their expertise and wisdom toward common global goals.
- Codex has over its 60 years also shown its capacity to evolve, embracing new approaches to process and assessment. The most recent evolution at the 2023 CAC meeting was the capacity to decide a divisive subject in a professional and clear manner without dramatics.
The challenge for the next years for Codex will be to maintain this unique five-pronged formula for success whilst embracing new evolutions and addressing new challenges. We are confident it’s up to that challenge.
Happy Birthday Codex!