Codex follows a format for standards because there are many advantages in having one common format.
- If any of the subsidiary bodies of the Codex Alimentarius Commission wish to present their commodity for standards then they can do so in a uniform manner.
- When there is a common format it helps develop standards with s structured approach. This helps to ensure that aspects that help to protect the consumer’s safety have been identified and described.
- When products are similar then there is consistency in their development
- A uniform format can be used by all governments to base their own national standards on it
The format established for commodity standards has been placed in the Codex Procedural Manual and it has the following components.
- Name of the standard
- Essential composition and quality factors
- Food additives
- Weights and measures
- Methods of analysis and sampling
When applying for new standards to the Codes Alimentarius Commission, the countries or group of countries have to follow this format.
The name of the standard should be clear and as brief as possible. It should be named according to the common name by which the food is known. If there is more than one food that the standard is dealing with then the name should be generic and should cover all the foods. In case the food information title is too long, a subtitle can be added.
Scope has to contain a clear, concise statement as to the food or foods to which this standard will apply. The name of the standard has to be mentioned unless the name is self-explanatory. If the standard is general, covering more than one specific product, the specific products to which the standard applies should be clear mentioned.
The description should contain a definition of the product to which this standard will apply. Where it is suitable the description will mention the raw materials from which it is derived and the manufacturing processes. A description can be made of the types and styles of product and the type of pack. Additional descriptions may also be provided if there is a need to clarify the meaning of the standard applied for.
This section on essential compositions and quality factors clearly identify all those essential elements that characterise the product. The factors that describe the quantity and other requirements that are needed to compose the food must be mentioned. This must include characteristics that identify the food, provisions on packing and the compulsory and optional ingredients required in the food. If there is any tolerance for defect, like blemishes or imperfect material, and if these factors are essential then they also need to be mentioned.
Quality factors that are important to designate, define and compose the product are also mentioned in this section of the application. The quality of the raw material, the taste of the finished product, odour, colour and texture that is discernible to the senses as well as the criteria in the finished product all have to be mentioned so there is no intentional food adulteration and consumers are safe.
Additives or other ingredients (e.g. vitamins and minerals), which may be added to the product are mentioned in this section. Any food additive provisions that are developed in the Commodity Committees are submitted to the Codex Committee on Food Additives (CCFA) for approval before the standard is allowed to go forward for adding to the Alimentarius Commission. Only those food additives that have been evaluated by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) and which have been approved by CCFA are allowed to be included in a standard. In this part of the format all the names or permitted additives are mentioned including the maximum amount permitted if applicable.
This section of the format deals with contaminants and identifies any maximum pesticide or veterinary drug residue limits that may be in the food, as well as other maximum levels heavy metals. According to the Codex Procedural Manual a standard should include, a reference, to any levels for pesticide residues that have been established by the Codex Alimentarius Commission if they are present in the standards applied for. However, in practice the Commission has already published maximum limits for pesticide residues separately. The names of any other contaminants are to be mentioned and where applicable then with maximum permitted levels. It will also be mentioned in these other contaminants are already endorsed or subject to endorsement by the Codex Committee on Food Additives and Contaminants.
Hygiene requirements are prepared in accordance with the guidelines given in the Codex Procedural Manual. If specific mandatory hygiene provisions are not covered by the “General principles of food hygiene” but if they are considered necessary then they must be mentioned. If these hygiene requirements are different from what is mentioned in the General Principles then they are to be referred to the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene for endorsement before the standard is submitted to the Commission for adoption.
The section on weights and measures has to include where appropriate, how much the fill of container will be, weight, measure or count of units which will be determined by an appropriate method of sampling and analysis. Weights and measures should be expressed in Standard International (SI) units. If the products are sold in standardised amounts like 100g, then Standard international units have to be used. There will be no disqualification in case in addition to standard international units similar amounts in other systems of weights and measures are also used.
Labelling includes all the requirements contained in the standard. Besides General Standard for the labelling of pre-packaged foods, other labelling requirements, if needed, have to also be mentioned. In case the labelling language deviates from standard language then a draft of the standard that you wish to use on the new standard has to be submitted to the Codex Committee on Food Labelling for approval before the standard is submitted to the Codex Commission for adopting. Labelling will be prepared according to the guidance given in the Codex Procedural Manual.
Whenever a Codex Committee establishes essential criteria that characterize any product then it is compulsory to also establish guidelines on the appropriate method of analysis and sampling with regards to the limits established in the standard. The Committee will identify an appropriate analytical method which is then submitted to the Codex Committee on Methods of Analysis and Sampling (CCMAS) for approval. In this section all methods of analysis and sampling considered necessary have to be mentioned specifically and the application document has to be prepared in accordance with the guidelines given in the Codex Procedural Manual.