Australia hosted and chaired the 26th meeting of the Codex Committee on Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems (CCFICS) held from 1 to 5 May in Hobart, Tasmania.
This was the first time a Codex sub-committee has met in a hybrid format that allowed both virtual and physical participants to make verbal interventions.
Over 100 international delegates attended physically and over 100 virtually for the CCFICS meeting - from Codex members and observers from over 60 countries and international organisations involved in international trade in safe food.
In a video opening address, Minister Watt acknowledged the 60-year anniversary of Codex and affirmed the importance of the committee’s work in international food safety.
Conference work on guidelines and control systems
The committee made significant progress on multiple guidance documents intended to provide guidance for food import and export inspection and certification systems.
This progress included:
- updating existing guidance for recognising equivalence,
- continuing to develop guidelines on the prevention and control of food fraud, and
- recommending new work to review current guidance on traceability
In addition, CCFICS also recommended two guidelines for adoption by Codex:
- the Guidelines on Recognition and Maintenance of Equivalence of National Food Control Systems (NFCS), intended to support countries in reducing unnecessary duplication of regulatory controls, and
- the Principles and Guidelines on the Use of Remote Audit and Inspection in Regulatory Frameworks
Chair of CCFICS, Nicola Hinder PSM said CCFICS plays a vital role in aligning procedures to protect the health of consumers and promote fair practices in international food trade.
“CCFICS is the jewel in the crown of Codex, and continued to prove that at CCFICS26 by progressing an exciting and modern program of work which will support international food trade and protection of consumer health,” Ms Hinder said.
The meeting also celebrated 60 years of Codex and its people with a video featuring some of the CCFICS family. Watch the video below:
This is the accessible text transcript of a video created for the Codex Alimentarius, International Food Standards and celebrating 60 years of the organisation.
[Music plays and an image appears of the Codex logo, and text appears: Codex Alimentarius, International Food Standards]
[Image changes to show the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and the World Health Organisation logos]
[Image changes to show text: Celebrating 60 years of Codex, Reflections on consensus building in CCFICS]
[Image changes to show Dr Bill Jolly talking to the camera, and then images move through of various people at the conference, and then a Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations sign]
Dr Bill Jolly: What CCFICS has done in the cooperation between the competent authorities is it's harnessed the power of multiple countries to address singular problems.
[Music plays and images move through of a sunrise in the mountains, an aerial view looking down on farmland, a view of a city, and a view of a wharf]
[Images continue to move through showing a city, a view looking down on farmland, and then cars moving over a bridge in a city]
[Image changes to show Josephine Simiyu talking to the camera, and text appears: Josephine Simiyu, Deputy Director for Regulations and Compliance Agriculture and Food Authority, Kenya]
Josephine Simiyu: My involvement with the CCFICS started during the virtual committee meeting we had in the year 2021.
[Image changes to show an aerial view looking down on a city]
When the opportunity arose for me to be the head of the delegation I was really excited.
[Image changes to show Ann Backhouse talking to the camera, and then the image changes to show a view of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and text appears: Ann Backhouse, Former Manager of Codex Australia]
Ann Backhouse: I was involved in CCFICS from about 1997 when I started, until about 2016.
[Image changes to show Pisan Pongsopitch talking to the camera, and then the image changes to show a view looking down on a busy roundabout in a city, and text appears: Secretary General, National Bureau of Agricultural Commodity & Food Standards, Thailand]
Pisan Pongsopitch: My first CCFICS meeting was in Adelaide in 2002.
[Image changes to show Cherie Flynn talking to the camera, and text appears: Cherie Flynn, Principal Advisor & Market Access Director, New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries]
Cherie Flynn: I've been fortunate enough to be the New Zealand head of the delegation since 2004.
[Images move through to show a view looking down on a city, Andre Santos talking to the camera, and then a city on the coastline, and text appears: Andre Santos, Chair of the Brazilian Codex Committee, National Institute of Metrology Quality and Technology]
Andre Santos: I have been working with CCFICS since 2010 and my first meeting was in 2011 when I first became the head of the Brazilian delegation for CCFICS.
[Image changes to show Farahnaz Ghollasi talking to the camera, and then the image changes to show a view of the Azadi Tower in Iran, and text appears: Dr Farahnaz Ghollasi, General Director, International Standards Development Department, National Standardisation Organisation of Iran]
Farahnaz Ghollasi: I’m the co-chair of working group for developing a guideline on the prevention and control of food fraud.
[Image changes to show Nicola Hinder talking to the camera, and then the image changes to show a river flowing through the city, and text appears: Nicola Hinder, CCFICS Chairperson]
Nicola Hinder: My specific involvement in CCFICS has come across over the last three years where I've had the pleasure of being the chair of CCFICS.
[Image changes to show Risto Holma talking to the camera, and text appears: Risto Holma, Senior Administrator, Directorate General Health and Food Safety, European Commission]
Risto Holma: My responsibility is to deal with Codex matters.
[Image changes to show a view looking down on a European city with canals surrounding the buildings]
So I'm coordinating the European Union's contribution to the Codex Alimentarius.
[Image changes to show Vigdis Veum Mollersen talking to the camera, and text appears: Vigdis Veum Mollersen, Specialist Director, Norwegian Food Safety Authority]
Vigdis Veum Mollersen: My Codex career, if I can say so, started with CCFICS In 2003.
[Image changes to show a view of a snow covered Norwegian village in front of mountains, and then the image changes to show a view of a city on the banks of a fjord]
I was working as a senior advisor in the Norwegian Food Safety Authority at the time, and the work around traceability in Codex was assigned to me.
[Image changes to show Dr Bill Jolly talking to the camera, and then image changes to show a view of a New Zealand city, and text appears: Dr Bill Jolly, Chief Assurance Strategy Officer, New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries]
Dr Bill Jolly: My involvement with CCFICS has been for over 25 years either attending or following or sending people to it.
[Music plays and images move through to show a person buying fresh fruit and vegetables in a shop, boxes of fruit and vegetables, and a view of a harvester moving through a field]
[Images move through to show a truck and chaser bin pulling up next to a harvester, a female serving food onto a plate, and a close view of the plate]
[Images move through to show Ann talking to the camera, people walking down a busy mall, and a male taking a packet from a shelf in a supermarket]
Ann Backhouse: We developed Principles for National Food Control Systems, which is a very comprehensive document that helps countries understand what's required in terms of developing a national food control system.
[Images move through to show various people selecting goods in supermarkets, two employees talking in a supermarket, two employees looking at documents, and Ann talking to the camera]
So right down to, how do you develop your policies, what sort of legislation you need, how do you work out what fits your circumstances. So it's not just sort of, you know, for developed countries.
[Images move through to show a barn of hens, and then the image changes to show a close view of hens pecking up food, and then the image changes to show an employee putting eggs in a bucket]
These documents also help developing countries.
[Image changes to show Cherie talking to the camera]
Cherie Flynn: New Zealand's involvement with working groups of CCFICS goes back to the early 2000s or possibly actually even into the late 1990s.
[Images move through to show a female placing documents in front of a male and female seated at a desk, a male holding up paperwork and pointing to it, and a hand writing in a notepad]
And the most significant work that we've done then has been our work on equivalence.
[Images move through to show employees picking in a plantation, a tractor moving through an orchard, workers packing vegetables, and a female picking herbs]
And we are now leading work on the development of the equivalence of national food control systems.
[Image changes to show a worker hoeing ground around a crop, and then the image changes to show Cherie talking to the camera]
We've also been involved in leading the work on the exchange of information to facilitate trade.
[Images move through to show two children walking down a supermarket aisle,
seafood boxes being lifted from a processing line, and a female looking at vegetables in a supermarket]
[Image changes to show a view of a moving truck, and then the image changes to show Risto talking to the camera]
Risto Holma: We have increased trade in international food, so there's more and more risks also. And it's important to have timely information.
[Images move through to show people picking vegetables from supermarket shelves, a customer being served at the counter, and customers moving through checkouts at the supermarket]
If a country detects a food safety emergency, it can be a food borne outbreak of salmonella, for example, if there are exports of food, that also the importing countries get timely information.
[Images move through of a tug boat pulling a container ship, containers on the docks, Josephine talking, Kenyan children drinking from tin cups, and various people drinking from glasses]
Josephine Simiyu: We've been leading the work on developing guidelines for harmonisation of food safety legislation in Africa.
[Images move through to show African women working in fields, hands holding picked fruit, women pouring water into buckets, and a group of delegates in a meeting]
This is actually a very important work because within the region there are some countries that lack food safety legislation.
[Images move through to show Josephine talking to the camera, a female washing her boots in a bucket of water, and a male washing down an outdoor area]
It’s giving guidance to member states to be able to align that legislation to the CCFICS text to have harmonised food safety legislation in Africa.
[Music plays and images move through of a researcher looking at something in a petri dish, and Ann talking to the camera]
Ann Backhouse: Another significant document that we did was the Principles for Traceability and Product Tracing.
[Images move through to show a researcher looking through a magnifying glass at a blossom, pears being processed through a factory, a female picking up pears in a supermarket, and Ann talking]
The ability of countries to be able to track food from where it’s come from to where it's going is significantly important from a public health perspective.
[Images move through to show a container ship in the ocean, an aerial view of a truck moving along a road, Vigdis talking to the camera, and delegates at the Codex Alimentarius food conference]
Vigdis Veum Mollersen: In my view, this committee has always been forward leaning and trying out new concepts for its management, often leading the way for other committees.
[Images move through to show delegates at the meeting, Cherie talking to the camera, a fishing boat at the wharf loading a truck, workers boxing fish, and workers sorting fish]
Cherie Flynn: One of the benefits that we've seen of the work that CCFICS has been doing has been in terms of looking at the impacts for countries, in terms of both importing and exporting.
[Images move through to show fish being sorted, fish being sold in a market, workers sorting fish, and a worker holding a long thin fish]
So this is in terms of the importance of that linkage between the international standards as developed by Codex, but also the national standards that each member country develops for themselves.
[Image changes to show Farahnaz talking to the camera, and then images move through to show a container ship, and then a worker walking towards containers at the docks]
Farahnaz Ghollasi: The standards can have a very good and very important role for solving the technical barriers in trade.
[Image changes to show Farahnaz talking to the camera, and then images move through of a worker directing a truck underneath a crane, a shipping container being lifted with a crane, and a ship]
So they are very important and so they can help us for facilitating and accelerating the trade.
[Images move through to show Nicola talking to the camera, broccoli being picked in paddocks and being transported via tractor and forklift, Nicola talking, a packet of coffee beans, and cooked rice]
Nicola Hinder: I think one of the greatest achievements that CCFICS has had over the entire history that it's been involved in looking at the safe trade in safe food was the first lot of truly international standards involving e-certification or e-trading in safe trade and safe food.
[Images move through to show meat being cooked, Nicola talking to the camera, and a view of a fjord surrounded by snow-capped mountains]
The levels of exhilaration and excitement I saw that we had developed that standard still really sticks in my mind.
[Images move through to show a close view of a snow-capped mountain, and then Vigdis talking to the camera]
Vigdis Veum Mollersen: From the Norwegian side, we consider the engagement in this committee important.
[Images move through to show a researcher writing in a notebook, an employee feeding two alpacas, pigs in a sty, Vigdis talking, a view over the water, a male looking from a boat window, and a view of the docks]
Developing new standards and other text to harmonise methods and procedures to facilitate international trade is, of course, of importance to us as a small country with an open economy and a huge export of seafood.
[Image changes to show workers standing on a platform in the sea, and then the image changes to show a view of two workers talking in the bridge of a boat]
We depend on predictable frameworks for import and export.
[Music plays and the images move through of a view looking over the water at sunset, a lighthouse lamp glowing, views of mountains, a cow grazing, Ann talking, and delegates at a Codex meeting]
Ann Backhouse: CCFICS has a reputation amongst the Codex members as being a very efficient committee because we don't take ten years to develop a standard.
[Images move through of people seated around a table listening to a presenter, a close view of a delegate at a meeting, and then a view of the delegates at the meeting]
Prior to COVID of course, we were very efficient. We could develop a standard in five years.
[Images move through to show Vigdis talking, workers picking mangoes on a process line, fresh fruits and vegetables at a market stall, and an employee stacking bananas in a supermarket]
Vigdis Veum Mollersen: I think the work that was done on equivalence at the time was extremely difficult, and now equivalence is back on the agenda.
[Images move through to show a customer choosing vegetables in a supermarket, Vigdis talking to the camera, an employee filling out paperwork, and an employee closing a fridge]
But, this means, again, that this committee, it actually takes the task kind of serious because you develop something and then you look back at it and you say, “OK we have something, we might need to amend it and revise it because of the situation we have today”.
[Images move through to show a kitchen worker carrying a tray on his head, Pisan talking, a worker filling out paperwork, avocadoes moving along a conveyer belt, boxes avocadoes, and Pisan talking]
Pisan Pongsopitch: The technology is developing rapidly and the inspection and certification systems are also changing from face to face inspection and certification into, I think, something like a remote inspection and certification.
[Image changes to show a male working on a laptop, and then images move through to show a close view of his fingers typing on the keyboard, and then his face as he looks down]
And this one is so important that at this year CCFICS start new work on this remote inspection and certifications.
[Image changes to show Josephine talking to the camera, and then images move through to show pictures and maps on a wall, and a close view of a map of Indonesia]
Josephine Simiyu: Within CCFICS there is a move to embrace technology to be able to conduct inspection.
[Images move through to show employees looking at a map on an iPad, Josephine talking to the camera, an employee milking cows, a close view of a cow’s udder, and cows emerging from their pens]
That work is actually very responsive to emerging issues like pandemics that guide how inspectors are supposed to work.
[Music plays and images move through to show an aerial view looking down on tomatoes being picked, and a close view of tomatoes moving through a harvester]
Vigdis Veum Mollersen: Traceability systems are being used by members.
[Images move through of a person selecting tomatoes in a supermarket, food inside a pantry no shelves, and Vigdis talking to the camera]
And today I would say that we have a common ground in Codex for further development of a more practical and useful guidance on traceability and we are happy to see that traceability is back on the agenda again now, almost 20 years later.
[Music plays and images move through to show various foods being cooked, a harvester working in a paddock, and a close view of a grain crop]
[Images move through to show Andre talking to the camera, a researcher placing bottles in a tray and then placing the tray in a machine and closing the door, and the researcher leaving the lab area]
Andre Santos: Considering emerging challenges for the future, first would be emerging food safety risks as new food borne pathogens can emerge.
[Images move through of Andre talking to the camera, a view of cars moving down a highway at night, a female taking food from a fridge, and Andre talking to the camera again]
I could also mention emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and Internet of Things.
[Image changes to show chooks in a pen, and then the image changes to show a close view of the chooks]
And third, I would say that capacity building is also a challenge not only for the future, but right now it is a big challenge.
[Images move through to show a female hand watering a crop, a female carrying cane on her back, women pulling out canes, Josephine talking, African women harvesting vegetables and talking together]
Josephine Simiyu: Coming from a developing country, I would say, a lot of capacity building needs to be done for countries within CCFICS Africa region as well as even coaching and mentoring for some countries in the region.
[Image changes to show Josephine talking to the camera]
That would be really important to enhance adoption of CCFICS text as well as just Codex standards in general.
[Images move through to show workers harvesting rockmelons, the rockmelons moving through a processing plant, a large ship at dock, and then Risto talking to the camera]
Risto Holma: We need to have some international guidance on how to tackle the increased trade volumes and any issues that could come up with this increased trade.
[Image changes to show vegetables on a market stall, and then the image changes to show a customer shopping in a supermarket]
So there is certainly more work for CCFICS to be done also in the future.
[Images move through to show Vigdis talking to the camera, a crop being raked, a close view of corn cobs, people tying peas in bags, a worker processing fish, and then Vigdis talking]
Vigdis Veum Mollerson: CCFICS work will continue to be important in the world because food trade is essential for securing the global food supply. Food trade creates economic growth and job opportunities and is important in establishing the relations between countries.
[Images move through of a worker placing pastries on a tray, and then taking the pastries from the oven and placing them on a bench]
The work of CCFICS will continue to be important to ensure a common framework of trade and in turn, a fair trade of safe food.
[Image changes to show bottles moving along a conveyer belt, an employee packing bottles into boxes, and then Farahnaz talking to the camera]
Farahnaz Ghollasi: New technologies in food production have created some challenges in providing food safety aspects.
[Images move through to show a female worker writing in a notebook, a male worker writing in a folder, and then Farahnaz talking to the camera]
The most important emerging key challenges that CCFICS must address in the future can be related to measuring new and ever emerging food fraud and also new business methods. For example, using blockchain or artificial intelligence in compliance assessments.
[Images move through to show delegates at the conference, Bill talking, a worker looking at a product, a male and two females in conversation, and a father and child in a supermarket]
Dr Bill Jolly: I think some of the challenges that Codex and CCFICS will need to address is how they stay relevant in an increasingly complex world of trade, supply chains and issues that both governments and consumers are interested in.
[Images move through to show two males in conversation, people holding up signs at a meeting, Bill talking, shipping containers on the docks, aerial views of cities, and people in a market]
How do we maintain a sort of rules-based environment, one where it's clear that we work within a certain framework, we don't deviate too much while still considering those issues that are really pertinent to international trade and consumers.
[Music plays and images move through to show a female sniffing a capsicum, a customer buying onions, people walking through a street market, a cow looking through a fence, and three men in a fishing boat]
[Images move through to show cheeses on shelves, a male looking at leaves in a crop, and then Nicola talking to the camera]
Nicola Hinder: With challenge, there's always an opportunity.
[Images move through to show two females working on a computer, and the camera zooms in on the computer they are working on]
And I like to think that the strength of the CCFICS family and the Codex family more broadly is to make sure that we are actually responding to those challenges in a risk based and scientific way.
[Image changes to show Pisan talking to the camera, various consumers in supermarkets and markets selecting goods, Pisan talking again, and trays of seedlings being picked up and looked at]
Pisan Pongsopitch: CCFICS’ work continues to be important to the world because everyone has a fundamental need for access to safe food and systems of inspection and certification.
[Images move through to show a female employee conducting an inspection, water pouring into tanks, a worker pulling mats from the tanks, and vegetables being washed in the tanks]
And also system for food control is very important for everyone too, to continue providing the safe food.
[Music plays and images move through to show an African woman picking tomatoes, an employee carrying a box of lettuces, cows grazing in a field, a tethered goat with three kids, a harvester in a paddock, and Risto talking to the camera]
Risto Holma: Different countries are at different levels of development, so this guidance should be useful and valid for all countries globally, and they should be able to pick the elements that they can implement and find useful with this document.
[Images move through of delegates at a conference, and then Risto talking to the camera again]
So that is a challenge to make pragmatic guidance which can be implemented by countries with different situations.
[Images move through to show a mountain village, a male leading a donkey on a mountain path, a female picking fruit, Andre talking, Codex documents, and a worker planting seedlings]
Andre Santos: The big achievement of CCFICS, is its whole collection of documents, especially because it is a really good reference for developing countries.
[Images move through to show a male riding a donkey on a mountain path, Bill talking to the camera, and then various views of delegates at a conference]
Dr Bill Jolly: An alignment of thinking, alignment of actions, alignment of communication ultimately it serves consumers much better than the countries trying to do it alone.
[Images move through to show Farahnaz talking, grapes on a vine, a female cutting vegetables, people eating rice and meat, a male milking a cow, Farahnaz talking, and a vegetable crop]
Farahnaz Ghollasi: The greatest achievement in CCFICS is the consensus and many of the texts that have been developed and agreed in this committee, in CCFICS, reflects the collaboration of committed, professional and experts from all over the world who come together, collaborated and agree on the many complex issues that affect the food trade.
[Images move through of a female hand watering a crop, and two females carrying bundles of sticks on their heads, and then images move between Andre talking, and various delegates in meetings]
Andre Santos: It is worth mentioning that the engagement of high level authorities, it is important for them to recognize the importance of Codex standards as a reference for their legislation.
[Music plays and images move through of delegates at a meeting, Pisan talking, a male in a greenhouse entering data on a Smartphone, and two people inspecting trees]
[Images move through to show a female and male looking at a laptop, Pisan talking to the camera, and a male walking towards pallets of onions in a warehouse]
Pisan Pongsopitch: CCFICS has provided guidelines for paperless inspection and certification that I think is really important to capture the changing global trade system.
[Images move through to show money changing hands, a male shopping in a supermarket, Bill talking, loaves of bread on a shelf, a female shopping in a supermarket, and roast meat being sliced]
Dr Bill Jolly: It's an interesting paradigm that trade has become not just important for the world, but critical for consumers throughout the world just to get their basic nutrition.
[Images move through of a female stacking vegetables in a supermarket, a close view of seafood, customers selecting meat in a supermarket, workers harvesting nuts, and stacked vegetables]
So CCFICS will be at the front of that, ensuring that it's safe, fair trade is there and that ultimately what moves across the borders is fit for purpose and is truthfully labelled.
[Image changes to show products on supermarket shelves, and then the image changes to show Nicola talking to the camera]
Nicola Hinder: I'm genuinely excited that we've got the right people in the right space with the right intentions at the right time to be able to make a really big difference.
[Images move through to show solar panels near a river, a female bending down next to a solar panel, workers looking at a remote control plane, and then the plane being thrown into the air]
Cherie Flynn: There will be new challenges that come up. There will be new approaches. All of these things will mean that the work of CCFICS will continue to be relevant into the future.
[Music plays and the image changes to show the Codex logo on a green screen]
[End of transcript.]
Dr Anna Somerville from the Export and Veterinary Services Division, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry led the Australian Delegation to represent Australian interests, supported by industry and government representatives.
Australia was pleased with the progress made at CCFICS, particularly on the accelerated adoption of guidance on the use of remote audit and inspection in regulatory frameworks.
This work was proposed at CCFICS25 in 2021 and received strong support from the Committee. Progress was achieved with support from Australia’s Co-Chairs, Canada, Singapore, and China.
“CCFICS26 has demonstrated its flexibility and leadership in Codex, hosting the first hybrid committee meeting allowing remote participants to make interventions, and setting a Codex record for the first standard to be finalised within one Committee session. The Codex family has shown we can produce guidance in a timely manner to address emerging issues and support Members where there is a strong need for standards,” Dr Somerville said.
International program of fair practice for food trade
The Codex Alimentarius is a joint program of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) which aims to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in international food trade.
The standards published by Codex are internationally accepted benchmarks that are recognised by the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Get involved in CCFICS
The work of CCFICS is crucial in assisting our efforts to modernise our food safety systems and support a profitable and resilient agricultural sector. If you would like to get involved with the relevant streams of work, please contact the CCFICS Secretariat at Codex.Contact@agriculture.gov.au.
Find out more about CCFICS: https://www.fao.org/fao-who-codexalimentarius/meetings/detail/en/?meeting=CCFICS&session=26