The adoption of 44 new and amended food safety standards by the Codex Alimentarius Commission signals the coming changes that member countries will make to their legislation over the next year.
At a six-day meeting that ended last Friday in Rome, the international food safety body also established a comprehensive set of risk analysis principles to help governments establish their own standards, especially for food items that are not covered by Codex.
Codex food safety standards are developed using scientific advice from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Health Organisation.
The standards are recognised as international benchmarks by one of the multilateral agreements of the UN World Trade Organisation (WTO) and aim to eliminate many of what the UN calls "unjustified technical barriers" to food imports set up by some countries.
Kazuaki Miyagishima, secretary of the Codex Alimentarius said the new risk analysis principles would help governments to target areas not currently covered by the standards.
"Because governments often adopt Codex Standards into their national legislation and sometimes even see the need for additional measures in areas not covered by Codex guidance, it is important that the extra safety measures are taken using the same rigorous and internationally recognised principles, not only to protect consumers, but to ensure they are consistent with multilateral trade rules," he said in a statement issued by the FAO yesterday.
The FAO and WHO also said the move of the Codex Commission to look for methods to prevent antimicrobial resistance in bacteria in food would also advance consumer safety.
The FAO and WHO also made a commitment to support Codex in areas such as the use of nanotechnology and a risk-benefit assessment of fish consumption.
To raise the necessary funding to conduct the new work the two organisations launched a project to encourage potential donors to support such international scientific investigations.
At the Codex meeting last week, member state representatives decided to develop additional guidelines to lower the frequency of Salmonella and Campylobacter in chicken.
"Together these two bacteria cause a significant proportion of food-borne diseases all over the world," the FAO stated. "Finding efficient ways of dealing with this problem from farm to table could result in the prevention of hundreds of thousands of foodborne disease cases every year."
The members also adopted acode that would prevent or reduce Ochratoxin A contamination in wines across the production chain. Ochratoxin A is a mycotoxin known to be toxic to the kidneys.
They also adopted a revised standard for infant formulae and formulas for special medical purposes.
A revised code of hygienic practice for eggs and egg products aims to protect consumers from disease-causing bacteria such as Salmonella Enteritidis and make international trade in eggs and egg products safer, the FAO stated.
This year's Codex gathering was attended by 133 countries, the highest number ever to attend an annual Commission meeting.
"Hopefully this example will lead several more major emerging economies to follow suit enabling a more efficient global food safety system," said Jorgen Schlundt, a WHO spokesperson.
The Codex Alimentarius Commission will convene next year on 30 June in Geneva, Switzerland.