Out with the Old

IDFA hails acceptance of new cheese standards.
After 13 years of hard work by Washington, D.C.-based International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and others in the U.S. dairy sector, the Codex Alimentarius Commission adopted all sections of 16 draft cheese standards at its annual meeting in Rome.
The new standards replace the existing cheese standards, which date back to the 1960s. The commission also adopted a revised standard for infant formula which resolved in dairy’s favor a dispute over the nitrogen conversion factor for milk protein and soy protein.
“We’re thrilled that the new cheese standards have finally been adopted after 13 years,” says Clay Hough, IDFA senior vice president, who attended the meeting as a member of the U.S. government delegation. “Getting these standards adopted was very important for U.S. cheese manufacturers. These new standards provide needed flexibility and will facilitate additional world trade in cheese.”
Hough notes that the adopted cheese standards include the controversial country-of-origin provision, which states: “The country of origin (which means the country of manufacture, not the country in which the name originated) shall be declared. When the product undergoes substantial transformation in a second country, the country in which the transformation is performed shall be considered the country of origin for the purpose of labeling.” This provision applies to cheese standards for brie, camembert, cheddar, cottage cheese, coulommiers, cream cheese, danbo, edam, emmental, gouda, havarti, mozzarella, provolone, samso, St. Paulin and tilsiter.
At last year’s meeting, after an extended debate produced no consensus, the Codex commission’s chairman proposed to move the 16 standards, minus the country-of-origin provision, to Step 8, which is the final stage before adoption. The contested section was referred back to the Codex Committee on Food Labeling (CCFL) for consideration, so the commission could reconsider final adoption of the standards and the provision at this year’s meeting.
In April 2007, the CCFL endorsed the country-of-origin provision, basing its decision in large part on an educational paper provided by the International Dairy Federation (IDF) Standing Committee on Food Labeling and Terminology, chaired by IDFA vice president Cary Frye. The paper included background information, explained the intent of the labeling provision, and presented the mandatory country-of-origin information that would be required on labels. This CCFL endorsement helped pave the way for final adoption of the draft cheese standards.
“We’d like to commend the many U.S. government officials, especially from the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, who gave a significant amount of time and effort to this issue and contributed to its ultimate adoption by the Codex commission,” Hough says.
The dispute over the nitrogen conversion factor for milk protein and soy protein also was resolved, with the commission adopting a revised infant formula standard proposed by the Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses. The new standard restores the appropriate conversion factor for the protein level of various ingredients used in ready-to-consume infant formulas, pegging the dairy protein conversion factor at 6.38 and the soy protein conversion factor at 5.71.
IDFA supported these changes because the values proposed last year would have incorrectly lowered the amount of protein in infant formula products using milk proteins, making them appear to be equivalent with the levels of protein in infant formula using soy protein. IDFA and IDF worked consistently to show that the proposal was not supported by science and not consistent with other Codex standards, which use a factor of 6.38 for milk protein.
The meeting, held July 2 to 7 at the Food and Agriculture Organization headquarters, drew delegates from more than 100 Codex member countries as well as a large number of observers from international non-governmental organizations. The Codex Alimentarius Commission is a body jointly set up by two United Nations organizations, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization, to develop food standards that can voluntarily be adopted by any country. Codex also works on food labeling standards, food additive standards and food hygiene recommendations.
Codex decisions can have a significant impact on U.S. dairy processors that export dairy products since many Codex standards have been adopted by importing countries. Codex standards can also be used to resolve World Trade Organization disputes.