The discussion in the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Measures Committee, which deals with food safety and animal and plant health, took place a week before the proposed standard is again on the agenda of the Codex Alimentarius Commission.
Codex, run jointly by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), is one of three standard-setting bodies explicitly recognized by the WTO’s SPS Agreement. The debate hinged on whether disagreement about setting a maximum residue limit for the feed additive ractopamine endangers the scientific basis of WTO rules or whether resorting only to a scientific opinion undermines the need for the rules to be more broadly based.
Also in the committee, members continued to comment on each other’s SPS measures, part of the committee’s core function of monitoring how the SPS Agreement is being implemented, with the recurring themes of whether certain measures are based on science or international standards, and whether they are targeted more broadly than needed to deal with genuine risks.
There were a number of questions on issues that have been discussed before such as mad cow disease, avian influenza, the new US food safety law and the EU’s novel foods regulation (March 2006 and subsequent meetings)
Consultations continued among members on how best to set up a system that would encourage members to make more use of mediation by the chairperson to resolve some of their differences, how to move forward on private sector standards now that five of 12 points have been agreed in the March meeting), and on actions they agreed to take as a result of the latest review of how the SPS Agreement is being implemented (improved co-operation between the SPS Committee and the three recognized standards setting bodies, including better coordination within countries; better monitoring of the use of international standards; and strengthening control, inspection and approval procedures).
Ractapomine and codex
Ractopamine, a beta-agonist drug mixed with feed that boosts growth and promotes leanness in pigs and cattle, has been discussed in several SPS Committee meetings since October 2008 when it was first raised as a specific trade concern by the US about Chinese Taipei’s ban on meat from animals fed with the additive. The US continued to pose questions to Chinese Taipei, including in this latest June 2011 meeting, but now since 2009 several Latin American countries have raised the issue more broadly under the heading “monitoring international standards” and in a paper, G/SPS/GEN/1092.
For the maximum residue limits: Costa Rica, the US and others believe scientific evidence shows some ractopamine residues are safe and want maximum residue limits (10 parts per billion for the main types of meat) to be approved in Codex. They cite the scientific studies by the FAO-WHO Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA). They also argue that 26 countries have allowed ractopamine to be used for many years, with no harmful effects. (The Codex standard would be recognized by the WTO even though members would still be free to set their own science-based standards.)
If Codex continues to fail to agree on the standard, despite scientific evidence, then the scientific basis of international standards will be undermined, WTO rules based on internationally-agreed standards risk becoming arbitrary and irrational and trade will become more uncertain, they said. Sharing this view were Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, the Philippines, Peru, Mexico and New Zealand.
Not ready for maximum residue limits: The EU and China, which according to the EU account for 70% of production and consumption of pigmeat, said the JECFA findings are not enough to justify standards that allow some residue.
They said they were committed to measures based on science. But Codex requires other issues affecting consumer health to be taken into account, the EU said. Asked what those other issues are, the EU said these issues should be discussed in Codex. China said its studies indicate risks exist, for example for other types of pigmeat, which the Chinese eat, and therefore countries should not rush into setting international standards without considering the issue carefully. Switzerland and Norway agreed. Chinese Taipei continued to defend its own ban.
(See Codex document)
(A database of trade concerns raised is in the WTO’s SPS Information Management System
CHAIRPERSON: Mr Deny Kurnia, Indonesia (taking over at the start of this meeting)
These dates (with informal meetings on other days in the week) could still be changed:
- 28–29 March 2012
- 11–12 July 2012
- 17–18 October 2012
These are some of the trade issues or concerns discussed in the meeting or information supplied to the meeting, as in the draft agenda (some other items were added in the meeting).
- European Union — Foot and mouth disease in Bulgaria (G/SPS/GEN/1072)
- European Union — Shiga toxin-producing escherichia coli (STEC) In the European Union
- China — Regionalization management system on food safety
- Japan — Information regarding nuclear plant accident
Specific trade concerns (g/sps/gen/204/rev.11 and additions and corrections)
- Mexico’s BSE Measures — concerns of Canada
- US failure to recognize South Patagonia as a disease-free region and the reopening of the market for fresh beef from the rest of the country — concerns of Argentina
- Chinese quarantine and testing procedures for salmon — concerns of Norway (G/SPS/GEN/1090)
- Philippine restrictions on imported fresh meat — concerns of the United States
- Japan’s MRLs applied to sesame — concerns of Paraguay (G/SPS/GEN/1091)
- Application and modification of the EU regulation on novel foods — concerns of Peru (G/SPS/GEN/1087) (no. 238)
- EU maximum residue levels of pesticides — concerns of India (no. 306)
- Japan’s prohibition of certain food additives — concerns of India (no. 307)
- EC regulation no. 1099/2009 — concerns of India (no. 300)
- US food safety modernization act — concerns of India (no. 299)
- EU regulation on polyamide and melamine plastic kitchenware — concerns of China
- Turkey’s restrictions on products derived from biotechnology — concerns of the United States
- Chinese Taipei’s prohibition on ractopamine in beef and pork — concerns of the United States
- Viet Nam’s ban on offals — concerns of the United States
- India’s restrictions due to avian influenza — concerns of the European Union and United States (no. 185)
- Chinese Taipei’s BSE-related import restrictions on non-ruminant products — concerns of Canada (no. 291)
- Import restrictions due to BSE — concerns of the European Union (no. 193)
Consideration of specific notifications received
Information on resolution of issues