Veterinary public health intertwined with food safety at Codex meeting

Published on May 01, 2005
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After eight years of discussion and debate, the Codex Committee on Food Hygiene approved principles and guidelines for microbial risk management at its recent meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Other standards approved were a code for control of Listeria monocytogenes, with a focus on ready-to-eat foods; a code of hygiene for eggs and egg products; and a code of practice for powdered infant formula.

Delegations from 50 countries, four international governmental organizations, and 16 nongovernmental organizations attended the meeting, held March 14-19. Among the participants was Dr. Leon Russell Jr., a vice president of the World Veterinary Association, the only NGO representing veterinary medicine.

"This meeting has some proposed standards that are very important to veterinary public health," said Dr. Russell, who is seeking to become the first American president of the WVA at the 28th World Veterinary Congress this July. "Codex standards are the benchmark against which national food measures and regulations are evaluated. This facilitates the international trade in food of animal origin."

According to Dr. Russell, the CCFH also agreed to form working groups to prepare documentation for its next annual meeting. Topics under consideration are Vibrio spp in seafood, Campylobacter in broiler chickens, Salmonella in poultry, enterohemorrhagic Escherichia coli in ground beef and fermented sausages, and viruses in foods.

As the standardization process continues, the CCFH will submit the draft guidelines to the Codex Alimentarius Commission for approval by approximately 160 member countries and inclusion in the global food code. To be a CCFH member, countries must be recognized by the World Health Organization or the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Codex standards must pass through an eight-step procedure before they are adopted. The standards are supported by the Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures and the Technical Barriers to Trade, and are enforced by the WHO.

A professor at Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences and a former AVMA president, Dr. Russell has been assigned by the WVA to represent its interest in WHO activities. He is working to advance public health education in the veterinary profession, and he concentrates on committees such as those of Codex that are concerned with food safety and veterinary drug residues.

This past October in Washington, D.C., the Codex Committee on Residues of Veterinary Drugs in Food agreed to fast-track a proposed draft Code of Practice to Minimise and Contain Antimicrobial Resistance, for adoption by the 28th session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission this July 4-9 in Rome.