• The 12th session of the Codex Alimentarius Committee on Contaminants (and Toxins) in foods (CCCF) was held in Utrecht (The Netherlands) from March 12-16, 2018. CCCF is the Codex Alimentarius horizontal committee in charge of updating the General Standard on Contaminants and Toxins in Foods and adopting codes and guidelines for the reduction and prevention of the contamination of the food chain.
  • Of note, CCCF12 reviewed and discussed proposed draft Codex Guidelines to define the risk analysis principles on the inadvertent low level presence of chemicals in foods. The discussion highlighted the need to narrow the scope of the guidelines, meaning food additives, pesticide residues, and residues of veterinary drugs will be specifically excluded. The Committee also noted the approach on how guidance levels (alert levels) are derived need to be further addressed and applicability reassessed. Despite the remaining work on the guidelines, the Committee considered the text ready for adoption at Step 5 (out of 8) by this July CAC41. Therefore, CCCF12 established an electronic working group (EWG) to further develop the guidelines. Although not formally established by CCCF12, CCCF12 leaves the door open to the chairs from New Zealand and the Netherlands to organize a physical working group (PWG) to meet immediately prior to CCCF13 session to make further recommendations to the Committee, based on the text to be included in the EWG report.
    • It is worth noting that based on the draft guidelines, it appears the intent is for governments to use the Codex guidelines to implement harmonized national policies regulating the migration of contaminants (i.e., non-intentionally added substances). This move of Codex CCCF into the regulation of food contact materials is quite significant.
  • CCCF12 also reviewed a recommendation for a maximum limit (ML) of 10 micrograms per kilogram (μg/kg or ppb) total aflatoxins in ready-to-eat peanuts. Instead of completely phasing out the objective to develop a Codex ML, the Committee stopped discussion and requested additional data on ready-to-eat peanuts (not intended for further oil processing) which are subject to international trade (i.e., not to domestic consumption from local producers). The call for new data, to be coordinated by JECFA, will grant an additional “grace” period for the main producing and exporting countries to implement the 2004 Codex Code of Practice for the prevention and reduction of aflatoxins in ready-to-eat peanuts. The Committee acknowledged that some confusion exists on current occurrence data about peanuts intended for further processing (edible oil production). Thus, the Committee decided to keep, but put on hold, the draft ML for total aflatoxins at 10 μg/kg in ready-to-eat peanuts. The discussion will resume once JECFA reports on the new occurrence data in approximately 4 or 5 years. This delay, however, may provide national or regional authorities the time to set their own national limit.
  • CCCF12 set new international standard maximum limits for lead, cadmium, methyl mercury, and other contaminants and toxins in several types of foods (e.g., chocolate, fish products, salt, fat spreads, etc.). For example, CCCF12 agreed to suggest the adoption of lowered maximum tolerable levels (MLs) for lead in several food categories in the Codex Alimentarius General Standard in Contaminants and Toxins in Food (GSCTF) and, where appropriate, in the corresponding Codex Commodity Standard. In particular, CCCF12 discussed lead limits in, for example, quinoa, grape juice, processed tomatoes, mango chutney, and wine. Looking towards the future, CCCF12 tasked the Codex Alimentarius Commission’s, JECFA’s and the Netherlands’ secretariats, with the assistance of the EU, to determine whether the Committee has now covered all main staple foods subject to international trade and of public health concern. CCCF12 also established MLs for Cadmium in various chocolate and chocolate products.