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NZ to host international food standards meeting

New Zealand is to chair a committee meeting of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), an international body of the United Nations responsible for setting the food safety and quality standards that are benchmarks for global trade.

Delegates from around the world will converge on Queenstown from March 27 – April 1 to attend the 7th session of the Codex Committee on Milk and Milk Products (CCMMP).

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) is the lead agency for CAC matters in New Zealand.

This session of the CCMMP, which will discuss standards related to a range of dairy products, such as individually named cheeses, fermented milks and processed cheese, is an important one for New Zealand which earns more than $5 billion a year from its dairy exports.

"The dairy sector exports to around 179 countries, making it New Zealand's biggest export industry, accounting for just over 20% of all our exports," says Steve Hathaway, Director of NZFSA's Science Group and chair of the meeting.

"Dairy products are traded in huge volumes throughout the world and therefore the standards that govern the way they're produced and traded are often controversial. All the countries present will be keen to have their say as we work towards consensus. So far, we have registrations from more than 60 governments.

"Food standards are becoming more and more important as international trade in food becomes more complex and consumers become more concerned about the food they eat. Standards must reflect a high level of consumer protection and not unnecessarily restrict trade. Additional components of food standards are about product description, labelling, packaging, fair trade practices, quality criteria and consumer information."

As a country with a significant presence in international food trade and a strong commitment to consumer health protection, New Zealand attaches great importance to the work of Codex, and has been a member of the CAC since its formation in 1962. New Zealand is unusual in that it chairs two important commodity committees: the CCMMP and the Codex Committee on Meat Hygiene.

Dr Hathaway says that for several draft standards, key outcomes from the meeting will revolve around countries accepting a compromise between their national interests and harmonised international standards that achieve the CAC goals of consumer protection and fair practices in global food trade.


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