Nicholas Kalaitzandonakes and Peter W.B. Phillips
University of Missouri & University of Saskatchewan, Canada

In 1962, the Codex Alimentarius Commission (or Codex) was formed under the joint sponsorship of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Its charge was to protect the health and safety of consumers and ensure fair practices in food trade through relevant standards (Lupien). Over its 40-year history, the Codex has fulfilled its mandate by establishing some 4,000 standards, recommendations, and guidelines for individual foods, food labels, pesticide residues, food contaminants, food additives, hygiene practices, and other issues relevant to traded foodstuffs (Lupien; Kimbrell; MacKenzie).

Codex members are governments representing their national interests. Standing and ad hoc committees and working groups, aided by consultations with experts from industry, scientific and civil society groups, advance the agenda of Codex. The work of these committees is slow and painstaking. It involves drafting and re-drafting proposals on food standards guided by the best science at hand and seeking to achieve consensus among members on the acceptability of such standards (Lupien; MacKenzie). Even non-controversial standards may take six or more years to develop and implement. Read more . . .