Eurachem Blog

Eurachem proudly supports Codex at 60 - Sixty years of the Codex Alimentarius

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7th June is World Food Safety Day, chosen this year also as a key date for celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Codex Alimentarius ( The theme of the day is “Food standards save lives”, stressing the point that foodborne illness is almost entirely preventable, if appropriate measures are implemented to keep food safe.

Codex Alimentarius, created in 1963 by the UN agencies FAO and WHO, is the worldwide organisation committed to ensuring safe food for everyone, everywhere. This is achieved through the continuous development of internationally recognised standards, guidelines and codes of practice for the production, management and control of food, including the harmonisation of testing activities and the definition of permitted levels of potentially toxic chemicals in food (additives, contaminants, residues). Since 1963, Codex has developed hundreds of internationally recognized standards, guidelines and codes of practice. It has defined thousands of permitted levels of additives, contaminants and chemical residues in food. The end goal: ensure food is safe for everyone, everywhere. The organisation now has 188 member countries across the world and one member organisation (the European Union). Besides consultation with its members, Codex Alimentarius also welcomes the participation, as Observers (235 to date), of intergovernmental (IGO) and international non-governmental organizations (NGO) – such as expert technical bodies, industry and consumer associations – to achieve the best level of agreement, largest support and widest dissemination of its guidance.

World Food Safety Day 2023Food safety is based on good practices, accompanied by sound testing activities, devoted to ensuring that the defined standards of quality are met. The reliability of the results of these testing activities is therefore key to the process of ensuring safe food and supporting international trade. The Codex Committee on methods of Analysis and Sampling (CCMAS) aims to agree on the best practices to perform food testing in a harmonised way across all borders and for the various food types and substances raising concern. In its role as Observer, Eurachem is proud to contribute to the discussions in CCMAS.

As well as serving an advisory and coordination role, CCMAS has a wide remit to ensure and improve the quality of measurements for food regulation and safety. In particular, CCMAS works to

  • Define criteria for acceptable methods of analysis;
  • Specify Reference Methods of Analysis and Sampling which are generally applicable to a number of foods;
  • Within its remit, endorse methods of analysis and sampling proposed by Codex (Commodity) Committees
  • Elaborate sampling plans and procedures;
  • Define procedures, protocols, guidelines or related texts for the assessment of food laboratory proficiency, as well as quality assurance systems for laboratories.

Many of these activities parallel Eurachem activities. Eurachem is an organization focused on promoting the quality of analytical results, including their metrological traceability. It develops guidance aimed at addressing all aspects of the measurement cycle, from the customer request to the laboratory report. Eurachem guides have consequently been referred to in Codex Alimentarius technical documents; in particular those related to measurement uncertainty, including the contribution from sampling. Notwithstanding the pandemic, over the last three years, Eurachem produced or updated several key guidance documents, including:

  • Proficiency testing. The third edition of Eurachem's guide to selection of use of PT schemes, approved in 2021, brought the guide up to date with standards and guidance documents that have been revised and developed since the second edition was released in 2011, including ISO 17025 and ISO 13528. It also covers current accreditation body guidance on developing a PT participation strategy and selecting the most appropriate PT schemes.
  • Guidance for the accreditation of microbiological laboratories: The new third edition takes into account recent trends in microbiology, such as the application of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) techniques for the detection of microorganisms and the indications of current ISO standards for method verification and validation. Two new Annexes address how to report confidence intervals and how to evaluate the contribution of sampling to the overall uncertainty of the result. In line with ISO/IEC 17025 the new guide discusses the concept of risk-based thinking and highlights the importance of using a decision rule.
  • Guidance on performance and uncertainty in qualitative analysis. Qualitative chemical analysis is an important area of testing, that can produce quicker responses with simpler equipment. However, it is important to make sure that methods perform well. In 2021 Eurachem and CITAC published new guidance on this topic, to assist laboratories in characterising the performance of qalitative test metods and, when required, to give a quantitative indication of confidence in the results.  An on-line workshop in four sessions was organised in January 2022, in collaboration with CITAC and the Singapore Health Science Authority, to present and discuss the Guide.

Eurachem is also working towards further guidance to support laboratories, including those maintaining food safety. The principles of new draft guidance on evaluation of measurement uncertainty from in-house validation data were discussed at an on-line workshop held over two days in October 2022 with approximately 600 participants. The new topic of Non-Targeted Methods - a particularly important topic for food safety and authenticity - continues to attract attention and is the subject of a series of webinars being jointly organised by Eurachem and AOAC Europe. The first of these, on 15 November 2022, attracted 110 participants from 40 countries. The second, addressing the qualitative and quantitative aspects of such methods, will be held on 06 June 2023.

Eurachem guides and other publications are freely available from the Eurachem website, including, when available, translations by Eurachem members or by other organisations. Workshop materials are also available from the website and, in some cases, on the Eurachem YouTube channel.

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Marina Patriarca
Eurachem Liaison to Codex Alimentarius

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