Consumer Groups Call for Stronger International Food Safety, Labeling Rules

array of foods including tomato, berries, nuts, and shrimp

 ROME - Consumer advocacy organizations from the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom called on the United Nations (UN) affiliate responsible for food-safety and labeling standards to ensure that efforts to harmonize diverse national laws on an international basis lead to higher, not lower, standards for consumers.

     The International Association of Consumer Food Organizations (IACFO), founded by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the Japan Offspring Fund (JOF), and the Food Commission UK, made the statement before the 23rd session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex) meeting in Rome this week. Codex, a component of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and World Health Organization, develops international food-safety and labeling standards. International trade agreements obligate World Trade Organization (WTO) members to either use Codex standards as national regulations or to provide scientific justification for stricter requirements.

  • IACFO is calling on Codex to:
  • strengthen proposed standards limiting lead and other contaminants in natural mineral water;
  • narrow an international list of approved food additives;
  • allow countries that require pasteurization of cheese to maintain such standards;
  • issue standards for mandatory nutrition labeling;
  • develop standards for quantitative ingredient labeling of foods;
  • maintain standards for clear labeling of irradiated foods.

“Many proposed Codex standards, if adopted, could lead countries to weaken their laws to accommodate international trade,” said Bruce Silverglade, legal director of CSPI and President of IACFO.

“Too many of the standards being considered for approval this week simply reflect a political compromise between nations with high standards and nations with lower ones. Others were developed to ease regulatory burdens on transnational food companies rather than provide consumers with the highest level of protection,” he said.

“Codex standards should be based on existing national laws that provide consumers with the greatest degree of protection from unsafe contaminants and pathogens, and that provide for the most complete labeling of nutrients, ingredients, and food-processing methods. International harmonization of national regulatory requirements should lead to higher, not lower, standards for consumers. Codex must change its priorities or public support for free trade will erode,” Silverglade warned.