The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has called on countries to reap benefits of food trade by engaging in standard setting. In a joint publication issued by the FAO and the World Trade Organization (WTO) on July 12, it stated that participation in the development of international food standards for trade is essential if countries are to reap the benefits of booming global trade and prepare for imminent technological changes.
FAO director general, José Graziano da Silva said “Food safety and food standards are crucial to unlock the potential of an important tool to fight hunger, which is trade.” He added that public and private sectors, operators from all parts of the food value chain, civil society organizations, academic and research organizations – all have essential roles in developing sound and credible systems of food safety management.
Developing countries, in particular, should invest in the capacity and skills to achieve effective engagement in institutions and multilateral bodies such as the WTO and Codex Alimentarius – the world’s primary international food standards setting body.
The publication Trade and Food Standards offers a concise explanation of how international food standards are set and applied. It advocates for deeper involvement by developing countries in both the harmonized food standard setting processes in Codex Alimentarius and the WTO’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Committees.
WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo also said “When food standards and international trade work hand-in-hand, they help to ensure food safety, as well as improved nutrition across the globe. This can help to promote growth and development, and to deliver on many of the new Sustainable Development Goals,”
He said more effective engagement has also the potential to make the international $1.7 trillion market in agriculture products more inclusive, allowing small-scale food producers and processors to participate in large-scale value chains. To achieve this, governments must devote attention and muster national consensus on their food policy priorities.
Such an approach is increasingly imperative in a time of growing consumer concerns about microbes, pesticides, food additives and nutrition and of greatly increased technological abilities to control the quality, safety and origins of food products. The central body for food standards is Codex Alimentarius, jointly run by FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO).