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COVID-19 / Codex discusses working online



COVID-19 / Codex discusses working online



Members of the Codex Executive Committee met up via online video conferencing technology for an informal meeting on 2 April 2020. Discussions revolved around the subsidiary body meetings that have either been cancelled or postponed and how to maintain the momentum of standards development work that is already underway.

The Chairperson of the Codex Alimentarius Commission Guilherme da Costa, Brazil, said: “This is a completely unexpected situation for us when we take a look at our field of work. Producers, transporters, industries, traders, wholesalers, retailers, sanitary authorities and consumers are facing a completely new situation in their routine and work due to the pandemic”.

Purwiyatno Hariyadi, Indonesia, Vice-Chairperson said that during the difficult COVID-19 pandemic situation, Codex should feel fortunate to have access to modern technology, which allows us to continue to connect. “This meeting mode can be explored as an alternative way of working for Codex to ensure that the important work of developing standards to protect consumer health and ensuring fair practices in international food trade will not stop”.

Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne – rethinking Codex working methods.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the feasibility of Codex Committees working by correspondence, using information technology, had already emerged and been debated in the Codex system and procedural guidance is currently being discussed in the Codex Committee on General Principles hosted by France. Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, State Secretary to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, in charge of foreign trade said: “Codex, by initiating several months ago the development of procedures adapted to committees working by correspondence, is in a position to continue its work remotely which is particularly important in this troubled period, as the work of Codex contributes to the safety of the food consumed around the world and to promoting fair practices in food trade. Within the framework of its host country responsibilities, France will continue to support the work led by the Codex Committee on General Principles so that pragmatic options for working electronically, in accordance with the principles of multilateralism, allow the whole of the international community to participate in its work”.

“The COVID-19 pandemic we are experiencing today certainly reinforces the need to have such procedural guidance,” said Hariyadi. Not only for emergency situations but also as a method of future work, something that is not only more effective, but also more efficient and sustainable.

Ways forward for a digital Codex 

“The core element of the Codex vision is to collaborate together in assuring safe food to protect everyone everywhere”, said Mariam Eid, Lebanon, Vice Chairperson. “The success we have had in organizing the informal meeting leads me to believe that we can do it”. In the 21st century, distance is no longer an issue and “nothing can stop the Codex community coming together and advancing our work”.

Steve Wearne, UK, Vice Chairperson said: “My reflection is that video conferencing software is extremely powerful and allows you to do the things you would in a normal meeting – ask for the floor, have sidebar conversations, even to show when you’re taking a break. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help in operating across multiple time zones”.

The broad and active participation of the different regions of the world across many time zones and contents was a valuable experiment for Codex as holding physical sessions is currently not an option. “This is a very challenging situation and the COVID-19 pandemic pushes us to use and explore digital technology to keep Codex on track and working”, said Chairperson Da Costa.


Read more

FAO response to COVID-19

WHO and COVID-19

COVID-19 / Maintaining the momentum of Codex work

Protecting the food supply chain from COVID-19


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