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UN food standards agency unveils new food safety regulations

6 July 2012

Melon

The UN food standards body Codex Alimentarius Commission has introduced new food safety standards on the maximum level of melamine in liquid milk formula for babies and new food safety standards on seafood, melons, dried figs and food labelling.

The new regulations were passed at a meeting in Rome, Italy, which was attended by more than 600 delegates representing 184 countries and the European Union.

Under the new standards, the Commission has revised the maximum limit of melamine to 0.15mg/kg from the previously adopted level of 1mg/kg for powdered infant formula. Melamine is often added to infant formula and milk powder to increase the apparent protein content of the products.

The new standard also includes a new maximum limit for aflatoxins, a group of mycotoxins that are toxic and known to be carcinogenic, and which can appear at high levels in dried fruits, nuts, spices and cereals if the produce is not stored properly.

The new maximum limit of aflatoxins in dried figs has been set to 10mg/kg.

To prevent cases of life-threatening Salmonella and Listeria outbreaks linked to pre-cut melon slices, the Commission has also recommended that pre-cut melons should be wrapped, packaged and refrigerated at temperatures of 4°C or less.

Cooling and cold-storing was recommended as soon as possible after harvest, while knife blades used for cutting or peeling should be disinfected on a regular basis.

Another major food safety concern is food hygiene in seafood, particularly for molluscs, such as mussels and oysters. The Commission adopted a set of preventive hygiene measures aimed at controlling food-borne viruses.

"The UN body has recommended that food companies across the world should label the nutritional content of their products, in order to ensure that consumers are better informed."

The Commission said the main hazard for the production of molluscs, such as oysters and mussels, was the biological contamination of the waters in which they grow.

It said that the seawater quality of growing areas should be maintained, and in case of a likelihood of viral contamination, it should be shut down and the contaminated molluscs should be destroyed.

In addition, the UN body has recommended that food companies across the world should label the nutritional content of their products, in order to ensure that consumers are better informed.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission is jointly run by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and WHO.


Image: According to the new food standards set by the UN body, pre-cut melons should be wrapped, packaged and refrigerated at temperatures of 4°C or less. Photo: Andrea Kratzenberg.