34th Session of the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme, Codex Committee on Methods of Analysis and Sampling, 4-8 March 2013, Budapest
The Codex Alimentarius Commission, established by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), develops harmonised international food standards as well as guidelines and codes of practice to protect the health of the consumers and ensure fair practices in the food trade.
The 34th session of the Codex Committee on Methods of Analysis and Sampling (CCMAS) was attended by delegates and observers representing 52 countries, one member organisation (EU) and 11 international organisations developing standards for foods, such as the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO), the European Committee for Standardisation (CEN), AOAC International, and the Nordic Committee on Food Analysis (NMKL).
CCMAS plays an important role for international trade in food commodities by harmonising ways of sampling and testing of food in order to avoid and, if necessary, resolve disputes between trading countries. JRC scientists (F. Ulberth, IRMM and M. Mazzara, IHCP) supported the EU and its Member States during the negotiations of CCMAS by providing relevant technical and scientific expertise.
The Committee discussed and agreed on a final draft on Principles for the Use of Sampling and Testing in International Food Trade, which aims at assisting governments in the establishment and use of sampling and testing procedures for determining, on a scientific basis, whether foods in international trade are in compliance with particular specifications. Compliance with these principles will also assist in avoiding potential disputes.
For an effective implementation of these principles, agreement needs to be reached on how food in international trade has to be sampled and how the uncertainty arising from sampling, which in certain cases can be considerable, has to be taken into account. This very important issue will be dealt with by an electronic working group, which has been tasked to elaborate a discussion paper for the next session of CCMAS.
JRC will contribute to the discussions by sharing our experience in the area of sampling of commodities for mycotoxin and GMO testing.
Another important agenda item was the selection of appropriate methods of analysis for the determination of inorganic arsenic in rice, where the JRC provided the underpinning scientific evidence gathered in several interlaboratory comparison exercises organised by the International Measurement Evaluation Programme (IMEP), which is run by the IRMM, and the experience gained in the characterisation exercise of ERM-BC211, a reference material certified for certain arsenic species.
Limits for inorganic arsenic in rice are under discussion by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) and the European Commission, since inorganic arsenic has been identified as a human carcinogen; however, assessments of dietary exposures to inorganic arsenic species are constrained by the lack of validated methods for selective determination of inorganic arsenic species in food matrices.
The EU Reference Laboratory for Heavy Metals, which is operated by IRMM, will, as requested by DG SANCO, validate by collaborative trial a simple method for inorganic arsenic in rice, to close this gap.