BSJ Sets up National Codex Committee


Moving to keep pace with the globalized shift for international standards for goods and agricultural produce, the Bureau of Standards Jamaica (BSJ) has established a National Codex Committee (NCC), forging partnerships with the Ministries of Commerce, Science and Technology; Agriculture; and Health.
The official launch of the NCC took place today (December 8) at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston.
Standardization Manager of the BSJ, Gladstone Rose, explained in his address, that the Committee “has been long in the making”.
He advised that the Bureau had been lobbying to lead in the process of establishing a National Codex Committee, even prior to its re-organisation in 2001.
“We took it to Council and the Council approved the BSJ hosting the Secretariat of the NCC for an initial period of six months,” he pointed out.
Mr. Rose said the Bureau was in essence, sharing the Secretariat with the Ministries of Agriculture and Health. The NCC will act as the local body answerable to the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), the highest international body that develops food standards.
Created in 1963 as a subsidiary of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO), the CAC is mandated to develop food standards, guidelines and codes of practice to protect the health of consumers.
It also ensures fair trading practices in international food trade and promotes the co-ordination of all food standard activities undertaken by international governmental and non-governmental organisations.
“The WHO demanded of us that we take part in international standards. In fact, the development of national standards is being de-emphasised. As the movement of people, foods, food ingredients, and animal feedstuff become more global, it turns out more difficult to solve food safety problems by any one country without international collaboration,” Mr. Rose disclosed.
The NCC will be charged with the responsibility of formulating national responses to the proposals and policies of the head food safety body, the CAC; provide advice to the government on matters related to Codex; appoint technical sub-committees as necessary, to facilitate national participation in the development of Codex standards; nominate delegates to represent Jamaica at Codex meetings; and establish a mechanism whereby Jamaican standards can be proposed to Codex for adoption as international standards. Membership of the NCC will include representatives from the public and private sectors, consumer groups, and other relevant independent persons.
Mr. Rose highlighted the fact that the BSJ had been serving as the Codex contact point for Jamaica, functioning as the liaison point between interested parties and the CAC. As the NCC will work in partnership with other agencies, representatives from Ministries were on hand to pledge their support.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health, Grace Allen-Young, in her address, noted that the Ministry was pleased to be involved with the NCC, “as it is in keeping with the Minister’s thrust to promote standards”.
“Codex standards are meant to protect the most vulnerable in society from the distribution of unsafe foods and also from economic losses which can result from disruption of agricultural exports, particularly due to food safety issues,” she said.
Meanwhile, Director of Policy, Planning and Research at the Ministry of Commerce, Science and Technology, Reginald Budhan said that “globalisation and the liberalisation of trade are forcing standardisation of systems and institutions across countries”. He pointed out that the BSJ was restructured to make it compliant with the mandate of the WHO, and the Ministry was currently exploring the feasibility of establishing a unified food safety system to meet national needs and satisfy the country’s trading partners”. Mr. Budhan emphasised the importance of Jamaica “having the requisite institutional infrastructure in place as a country, if we are to attract foreign direct investments and most importantly, to be in harmony with our trading partners”. Pledging support on behalf of the Ministry of Agriculture, Chief Technical Officer, Don McGlashan said, “the fact that the WTO recognises Codex food safety standards and codes of practices as the international reference point for food related issues, signifies that the formation of the NCC is bringing us a step closer to fulfilling Jamaica’s obligation to the WTO’s agreement in relation to food safety”.
He noted that the issue of food safety continued to gain prominence worldwide as consumers became more informed and demanded better quality foods.
“We need to keep abreast of these developments; we need to ensure that adequate systems and facilities are put in place to guarantee the quality and safety of locally produced foods in accordance with international standards, and that imported food meets similar criteria for pesticide residue levels and other contaminants,” the Technical Director added.
Jamaica is the first Caribbean country to launch a National Codex Committee.

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