IUFoST Releases Roadmap and Codex Comments

1. IUFoST delivers roadmap to support resilient, innovative and sustainable food systems

December 1, 2023 - Responding to the call for action stemming from the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit, and supporting commitments to transform food systems to address the rapidly growing needs of an increasing world population, the International Union of Food Science and Technology (IUFoST) partnered with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) to organize the Future of Food Summit: Resilient and Innovative Food Systems, hosted by the Food Science and Technology Association of Thailand (FoSTAT), in Bangkok, Thailand on 13 November 2023.  

Food scientists and researchers, opinion leaders, industry representatives and regulators* present at the meeting, reaffirmed: 

  • The pivotal role played by food science and technology to provide solutions to challenges testing the resilience of food systems, namely the vulnerability and scarcity of natural resources, climate change, regional and global conflicts, and continued food losses,
  • The importance to offer food processing solutions as a means of prevention of food losses and remediation of the possible introduction of food safety hazards that can be further managed through post-harvest interventions. This needs to be coupled with awareness raising and education efforts aiming to clarify the role of food processing and to rebut the claims propagated about the negative impacts of processing interventions, as may be relevant,
  • The importance to continue to invest in innovation supporting the development and availability of novel food and feed sources and ingredients, such as alternative protein being developed from plant origin and /or through the application of technologies of likes of precision fermentation,
  • The importance to consider optimization of use of resources in food and feed production such as land and water resources as well as to consider the reliance on recycling technologies where relevant, supported by the corresponding safeguards ensuring the safety of food production applications and technologies used, 
  • The need to benefit from the experience gained from indigenous knowledge and/or the re-development of traditional food, as well through traditional knowledge to develop solutions to prevent and/or mitigate food loss and to identify new food sources and/or processes. 

Participants in the Summit identified a Three-Pillared Path Forward to support the development of resilient and innovative food systems (Figure 1):

  • Continued Investment in Food Science and Technologies: that enable the development of novel food sources and enhance current practices of food and agri-food production. These investments should include the development of research aiming to better understanding consumers’ interests and concerns to support readiness to address such concerns or mitigate consequences of consumers acceptance of available food sources. Particular attention should be developed to the introduction of digital solutions, including the reliance on Artificial Intelligence that can facilitate and optimize food production conditions, food safety and traceability.
  • Availability of Funding and Investments: dedicated not only to research and development but to the overall food and agri-food production sector, in particular to support knowledge and technology translation and scalability of innovative solutions of food production. Investments should cover skill and competency development, indispensable to sustain efforts of reseach, and food production.
  • Development of Effective Partnerships: harnessing the capacities of the public sector i.e., government interventions, academia and the private sector, to support availability of sustainable food production operations resulting from research and innovation or to offer enablers and solutions to translate research, scale-up new production processes or facilitate market access where relevant.

Figure 1, IUFoST 2023

These three pillars of interventions need to be enabled by a series of interventions that include: 

  • Regulatory facilitation and early engagement of food regulators in the development of novel food production systems,
  • Contributions of the Academic Sector to accompany the foreseen developments with adaptation of curriculum of food science and technology and effective support to applied research efforts with appropriate capacity building programmes,
  • Leadership from individuals and organizations supporting food security and integrity, to ensure these areas are at the forefront of the policy agendas regionally and globally,

Support to consumer education and awareness raising in relation with food production systems, to prevent and minimize food losses and waste and support acceptance of new products and ingredients based on scientific knowledge and facts.

*Summit speakers: 
A. Driando Ahnan-Winarno, Co Founder and CTO, Better Nature Tempeh, Indonesia; Ali Badarneh, United Nations International Development Organisation (UNIDO) Food Systems Division Chief; Joachim von Braun, Chair, Science Group to UN Secretary-General on UN Food Systems Summit and Scientific Advisory Committee to Director General of FAO; Pavinee Chinachoti, Chair, Food Innovation and Regulation Network (FIRN), Thailand; Shenggen Fan, Scientific Advisory Committee to DG FAO, CGIAR Board and Former Director-General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI;) Chris Elliott, Queens University Belfast, Chair ASEAN/ASSET; Samuel Godefroy, IUFoST President Elect, Founder GFoRSS; Ng Huck Hui, Assistant Chief Executive, Biomedical Research Council, A*STAR Singapore; Lijing Ke, Plant Biochemistry and Nutrition, University of Leeds, UK; Sirinya Lim, Senior Department Director, National Higher Education Science Research and Innovation Policy Council  NXPO Thailand; Lina Mahy, Technical Officer, Multi-sectoral Action in Food Systems Unit, Department of Nutrition and Food Safety, WHO; Gabor Molnar, Associate Industrial Development Expert, Sustainable Food Systems Division, Department of Agri-Business, UNIDO; Olusola Oyewole, Secretary-General of the Association of African Universities (AAU);   Vish Prakash, Immediate Past President IUFoST and Former Director of CFTRI Mysore, India; Kanittha Rutrattanamongkol, Faculty of Agriculture, National Resources, Thailand; Wisuwat Songnuan, Genetics Department, Faculty of Science, Mahidol University, Thailand;  Moez Sanaa, Unit Head, Standards and Scientific Advice on Food and Nutrition, World Health Organisation; Maria Tuazon, Senior Nutrition and Food System Specialist, FAO; Steve Wearne, Chairperson of Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex); Erich Windhab, ETH Zurich; Aman Wirakartaksumah, IUFoST President, Indonesia; Weibiao Zhou, Head of Department, Department of Food Science and Technology, National University of Singapore. 


2. IUFoST Tables Comments on Codex 46th Session Agenda Items

IUFoST Comments, as invited, on Agenda Item 9: New Food Sources and Production and Agenda Item 8: Statement of Principles and the role of Science in Codex Decision Making were tabled during the 46th Session of  Codex, Rome this week and are included below:  

In view of the possible increased reliance on novel food sources and production systems, IUFoST suggests the possible development of guidance for national food regulators on how Novel Food Regulatory Frameworks can be established with a strong emphasis on requiring science-based decisions in assessing and deciding on market access for food products and production processes, resulting from innovations. In doing so, food regulators will contribute to fostering further innovation in food systems as a whole, for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

IUFoST notes the current challenges faced by Codex committees and the CAC in addressing situations of standards development, based on a global context that may result in provisions that are different from national food regulatory measures, when these pre-exist, and are legitimately based on different considerations than those relevant to Codex. 

As a science-based organization, IUFoST would like to reiterate the importance of robust independent science to the Science / Policy interface. In this regard, science should be the preeminent enabler of standards development.

It will be important to reiterate to members that, more than the standards themselves, Codex offers the harmonization of the methodologies and approaches used to lead to these standards, which in turn can be applied relying on different sources of data as well as considering different levels of protection adopted nationally, leading to a different outcome than the proposed standard at the global level. Following the same methods and approaches in developing food standards is a prerequisite to predictable and robust food control systems and Codex guidance remains the backbone of this goal.

It is noteworthy to observe the increased interest by members in either expressing reservations on Codex standards, when the proposed standard differs from their national regulation or in marking through a footnote added to the standard whether a country would apply this standard nationally.

Addressing possible future directions related to the application of the Statement of Principles (SoP) and the Role of Science in the Codex Decision-Making process, as discussed under agenda item 8, IUFoST suggests that the practical guidance on the application of the SoP offers a clarification to the SoP, to convey to members that: 

  • The adoption of a codex standard does not take away any countries' prerogative(s) to deviate from the Codex standard, based on their own scientific assessment, or on the level of protection that they have adopted to their consumers (including protection of consumers’ social and cultural preferences) at the domestic level and which may not be relevant globally and hence would be different from the factors considered by Codex to manage the same risk or issue (which ought to be of global applicability)
  • Continued recording of reservations on Codex standards, based on the sole difference between the proposed standard and national provisions, may convey a non-justified doubt in the robustness of the methodologies or approaches followed by Codex to arrive at such standards. 

While recording a reservation remains a country prerogative, more guidance may be needed to restrict such reservations to instances where a delegation is questioning the methodology followed, without opposing the progression of the standard. 

It is important that the Codex decision-making process keep evolving to cope with the need to address an increasing number of products and processes that will be seeking access to markets regionally and globally and that will be challenging the regulators’ capacity to cover individually. 

Short of having such trusted international guidance, new food production sources and solutions will not be effective in addressing the identified challenges of food safety and security.