What is the CODEX Alimentarius and how does it intervene in national regulation?

The Codex Alimentarius is an international collection of food standards that seeks to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in food trade

Codex Alimentarius comes from the Latin meaning “food code” and is a collection of food standards, codes of practice, guidelines and international texts that were approved by the Codex Alimentarius Commission to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in trade. of the food.

The need to create international food standards arose as a consequence of the increase in international food trade and rapid progress in science and technology (food chemistry was recognized as a discipline, adulteration was identified and analytical tools were developed) during the second half of the 19th century; It reached its peak in the late 1940s, when the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) were created and their work generated great interest in the direction that the food regulation.

It was in 1953, during the WHO World Health Assembly, that the use of chemicals in foods was recognized as a new public health problem, and it was proposed that FAO and WHO conduct joint studies. The result was the First Conference on Food Additives of FAO and WHO, held in 1955.

The creation of a group of experts was carried out at the conference: the Joint FAO / WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), which is currently still meeting and is fundamental for the release of standards and guides for food additives, contaminants and residues of veterinary drugs in food.

During the First FAO Regional Conference in Europe, in 1960, the need to have international agreements on issues related to food, such as labeling requirements, methods of analysis and minimum standards of composition, among others, was recognized. to protect the health of consumers, ensure the quality of products and reduce trade barriers.

In November 1961, during the eleventh session of the FAO Conference, a resolution was made to create the Codex Alimentarius Commission; almost two years later, in May 1963, during the 16th World Health Assembly, the FAO / WHO Food Standards Program was adopted and the statutes of the Codex Alimentarius Commission were adopted.

The first meeting of the Codex Alimentarius Commission was held in Rome, Italy from June 25 to July 3, 1963. This Commission meets annually since that time, alternating between the headquarters of FAO (Rome, Italy) and WHO’s (Geneva, Switzerland); After more than 50 years, it is a point of reference for the elaboration of international food standards.

The importance of the Codex Alimentarius for the international community lies in the benefits it offers such as the availability of the standards it generates, since these are based on scientific principles whose evaluation and risk management processes can be long and costly and which member countries can be saved In this way, each country can take as reference the documents issued by Codex and apply them in their territory, according to their situation, to protect the health of consumers, help those responsible for public policies to create a solid national system of food control and, of course, establish a coherence between national and international standards to facilitate the movement of food products.

All member states and associate members of FAO and WHO can be part of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. Mexico has been a member since 1963 through the Ministry of Economy (SE), which collaborates jointly with various areas of government in order to establish national positions and activities; Such is the case with the Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks (COFEPRIS), which has among its powers the regulation of the food, beverages, pesticides, plant nutrients and toxic substances sectors, topics that are dealt with by the subsidiary bodies of the Commission of the Codex Alimentarius.

Figure 1.- Conformation of the Codex Alimentarius Commission. Own preparation based on Understanding the Codex Alimentarius (2015), FAO.

The Codex Committees meet every one or two years, according to the identified needs. In these meetings, participatory principles are fostered; the positions and contributions of each member country and geographical region are taken into account. In addition, each country is free to decide which Codex Alimentarius standards and regulations are applicable to its context and, if applicable, how they should be implemented.

In order to generate consensus and formulate a national position for meetings, there are subcommittees of the Codex Alimentarius in Mexico, coordinated by COFEPRIS, in which the public, private and academic sectors participate. Subcommittees work on updating Codex standards, on new proposals, or on the revocation of anachronistic or ineffective norms. The documents generated are evaluated and sent to the point of contact, the SE.

COFEPRIS, as a decentralized body of the Ministry of Health, carries out the necessary actions in matters of regulation, control and health promotion applicable pursuant to the General Health Law and the COFEPRIS Regulation; for this, it is based on the documents contained in the Codex Alimentarius for the creation of Official Mexican Standards (NOM), guidelines and agreements, among others, with the aim of protecting the health of the population and aligning national standards with the regulatory framework and, thus, comply with the objectives of Codex.


Federal Commission for the Protection against Sanitary Risks

Publication date

October 2, 2018

M. en C. Alejandra Salas Fernández – Advisor in the Health Promotion Commission



Source: https://www.gob.mx/cofepris