Food safety

General information about the Codex Alimentarius

Structure of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC)

The structure of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) consists of the Commission, the Executive Committee and the subsidiary bodies. The Commission, which meets every year alternately in Rome and in Geneva, is the supreme decision making body and provides a forum for discussion and debate on all major food standards/safety issues of interest and concern to Codex Member States.

The Executive Committee of Codex comprises the Chairman, three vice Chairs and six elected representatives from the various geographical groups of Codex.

The task of developing international standards for commodity and general subject areas is spread across specific technical committees. There are currently 14 Commodity and 8 General Subject Committees.

Subsidiary Bodies. Under its Rules of Procedure the Commission is empowered to establish two kinds of subsidiary body:

Codex Committees for the preparation of draft standards for submission to the Commission. Codex Committees are classed as either General Subject Committees or Commodity Committees; and

Coordinating Committees for regions or groups of countries to coordinate food standards activities in the region, including the development of regional standards.

General Subject Committees are so called because their work has relevance for all Commodity Committees and, because this work applies across the board to all commodity standards, General Subject Committees are sometimes referred to as "horizontal committees". There are 10 such committees:

  • Committee on General Principles hosted by France
  • Committee on Food Labelling hosted by Canada
  • Committee on Methods of Analysis and Sampling hosted by Hungary
  • Committee on Food Hygiene hosted by USA
  • Committee on Pesticide Residues hosted by China
  • Committee on Food Additives by China
  • Committee on Contaminants in Foods hosted by Netherlands
  • Committee on Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems hosted by Australia
  • Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Use hosted by Germany
  • Committee on Residues of Veterinary Drugs in Food hosted by USA

Commodity Committees have the responsibility for developing standards for specific foods or classes of food lies with the Commodity Committees. In order to distinguish them from the "horizontal committees" and recognize their exclusive responsibilities, they are often referred to as "vertical committees". Commodity Committees convene as necessary and go into recess or are abolished when the Commission decides their work has been completed. New Committees may be established on an ad hoc basis to cover specific needs for the development of new standards. There are currently five Commodity Committees that meet regularly:

  • Committee on Fats and Oils hosted by Malaysia
  • Committee on Fish and Fishery Products hosted by Norway
  • Committee on Milk and Milk Products hosted by New Zealand
  • Committee on Fresh Fruits and Vegetables hosted by Mexico
  • Committee on Processed Fruits and Vegetables hosted by the USA

Coordinating Committees have no host countries. Meetings are hosted by countries of a region on an ad hoc basis and in agreement with the Commission. There are 6 Coordinating Committees - one each for:

  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Europe
  • Latin America and the Caribbean
  • Near East
  • North America and South West Pacific

The following Commodity Committees work through correspondence or are in recess:

  • Committee on Cereals, Pulses and Legumes
  • Committee on Cocoa Products and Chocolate
  • Committee on Meat Hygiene
  • Committee on Natural Mineral Waters
  • Committee on Sugars
  • Committee on Vegetable Proteins

Ad hoc Intergovernmental Task Forces is a Codex Committee with very limited terms of reference established for a fixed period of time. To date the Commission has established the following ad hoc Intergovernmental Task Forces:

  • Task Force on Animal Feeding (Chair: Denmark), 1999–2004
  • Task Force on Foods Derived from Biotechnology (Chair: Japan), 1999–2003 and 2005–2008
  • Task Force on Fruit and Vegetable Juices (Chair: Brazil), 1999–2005
  • Task Force on the Handling and Processing of Quick Frozen Foods (Chair: Thailand), 2006-2008
  • Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance (Chair: Republic of Korea), 2006-

Coordinating Committees play an invaluable role in ensuring that the work of the Commission is responsive to regional interests and to the concerns of developing countries. The country that chairs the Coordinating Committee is also the Regional Coordinator for the region concerned. These Committees have no standing host countries. Meetings are hosted by countries of a region on an ad hoc basis and in agreement with the Commission. There are six Coordinating Committees, one each for the following regions:

  • Africa (Chair: Ghana)
  • Asia (Chair: Indonesia)
  • Europe (Chair: Switzerland)
  • Latin America and the Caribbean (Chair: Mexico)
  • Near East (Chair: Tunisia)
  • North America and South West Pacific (Chair: Tonga )

The CAC has so far adopted more than 200 food commodity standards, more than 40 hygiene and technological practice codes and set more than 3200 maximum residue limits for pesticides and veterinary drugs.