New food standards adopted to protect consumers

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A variety of the new high-yielding rice grown in Guyana. UN Photo/Ciganovic

The United Nations’ food standards body has adopted new standards to protect consumer health worldwide.

The Codex Alimentarius Commission resolved to lower further the maximum acceptable levels of lead in infant formula.

The Commission says infants and young children are particularly vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead and they can suffer profound and permanent adverse health effects, particularly affecting the development of the brain and nervous system.

For the first time, the Commission adopted a maximum level for arsenic in rice.

The Commission says long-term exposure to arsenic can cause cancer and skin lesions and has been associated with developmental effects, heart disease, diabetes, and damage the nervous system and brain.

Arsenic contamination in rice is of particular concern in some Asian countries.

Angelika Tritscher is from the Food Safety Department at the World Health Organisation.

"Lead is a global problem. It comes through raw materials, through milk for example. So by lowering that limit it means that producers have to very carefully source their raw materials, tests done so that they have the best possible raw materials. Arsenic occurs in the earth's crust so its naturally occurring. The problem is that it's often in areas where rice is the main stable food. The main driver for CODEX standards is in fact trade. When we talk about the safety standard, the main purpose is clearly to protect the health of the consumer, while ensuring fair trade practices."

The Codex Alimentarius Commission is jointly run by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) and sets international food safety and quality standards to promote safer and more nutritious food for consumers worldwide.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration 1’51″

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