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Codex rejects precautionary principle for third time

The World Health Organization's food regulation standards body, Codex, turned down the inclusion of precautionary principles in its draft risk analysis standards for food safety at a meeting in Paris. The International Alliance of Dietary/Food Supplement Associations (IADSA) monitored the Codex Committee of General Principles (CCGP) meeting on April 3, and noted government and non-government groups such as the Washington DC-based Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) pushed for its omission.

"Its rejection marks the third unsuccessful attempt by the EU and other countries to include the principle in key Codex documents," IADSA said in a statement.

The precautionary principle empowers risk managers to take preventative measure when, as the EU states on its website: "There are reasonable grounds for concern that an unacceptable level of risk to health exists but the supporting information and data may not be sufficiently complete to enable a comprehensive risk assessment to be made." The EU notes such decisions "should be considered as provisional."

Many governments and trade organisations view the precautionary principle as a barrier to trade. Dr John Hathcock, vice president of scientific and international affairs for CRN, said of the Paris decision: "The new document just accepted by the Committee appropriately follows an earlier one by excluding the precautionary principle, an action needed to help assure fair opportunities for trade in supplement products."

David Pineda, IADSA's manager of regulatory affairs, said it was possible the precautionary principle could make it into the final draft, despite the latest rejection. "The text is at an intermediate stage and changes can still be made. There could, therefore, be attempts to include this principle into the text during the next Commission meeting later this year which will have to consider this week's decision of the CCGP."

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