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Australia to host new international committee on food standards

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91/189G 9 July 1991


"Australia is to be the host country for a new international expert committee on food inspection and certification systems", the Minister for Resources, Mr Alan Griffiths, said today. Mr Griffiths is in Rome at the start of his official visit to Italy.

"The Codex Alimentarius Commission is the international organisation responsible for developing harmonised food standards to protect human health and facilitate trade", Mr Griffiths said. "At its biennial meeting currently in session the Commission has recognised the need for development of guidelines on food inspection systems to complement the many standards which Codex has developed in other areas, such as pesticide residue limits, over the past thirty years.

"Increasingly international trade in foodstuffs will be based on govemment-to- govemment certification that the commodities in question have been produced in a way which assumes they are safe for human consumption.

"The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service has made rapid progress in recent years in promoting the use of quality assurance systems to achieve food safety objectives, and Australia will be able to contribute its experience to the new effort towards international harmonisation," the Minister said.

Mr Griffiths noted that the first meeting of the new expert committee would be held in Canberra in March 1992. In Rome on Monday, the Minister met the Chairman and senior delegates to the Codex Alimentarius Commission, whose present meeting is being attended by representatives of more than 70 countries.

Mr Griffiths also met senior officers of the Codex Secretariat which is funded by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation.

"Increasing concerns about food safety worldwide, and the possibility that food control measures may be used improperly to inhibit world trade, are making the role of Codex increasingly important," Mr Griffiths said. "The work of the organisation can make a significant contribution to assisting developing countries to trade their food products internationally".

The Minister noted that a draft agreement on sanitary and phytosanitary measures being developed in the GATT Uruguay Round would accord special status to Codex standards, guidelines and recommendations as a legitimate basis for regulation of food products in international trade.

"It is therefore vital that the Codex Alimentarius Commission should carry out its scientific and technical role.



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In this regard it is unfortunate that in the course of the present Commission proceedings, member countries of the European Economic Community chose to strongly oppose the adoption of new standards on the use of hormonal substances as growth promotants in animal husbandry, even though the relevant scientific committee had concluded that these substances could be used safely."

In Rome today (Tuesday) Mr Griffiths had discussions with the Italian Minister for Industry Mr Guido Bodrato regarding Australia's energy trade with Italy and also with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation regarding Forestry issues, particularly the FAO's Tropical Forestry Action Plan.

Rome, Italy 9 July 1991