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The Origins Of A Global Standard For Food Quality And Safety: Codex Alimentarius Austriacus And FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius

Franz Vojir, Erwin Schübl, Ibrahim Elmadfa

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In the second half of the 19th century the incidence of food adulterations increased very rapidly, prompting many European countries to put into force food laws to fight these practices. A number of parallel attempts were undertaken to establish a collection of instructions for the assessment of food samples to warrant the comparability of results obtained and interpreted by different experts. The first official steps towards such a standardization was made in 1891 at an international meeting of food chemists and microscopic scientists in Vienna. As a consequence, Austria installed a “Scientific Commission” in 1891, which drafted chapters for a future Codex Alimentarius Austriacus. In 1907, a Codex Commission was installed by the Ministry of Interior, but it took about four years, from 1907 to 1911, before the first edition of this compendium was published. So far, four editions have followed. The Codex Alimentarius Austriacus is a set of standards and guidelines for stakeholders, authorities, and law courts as a base for their activities. It has evolved over the past 100 years to become a flexible instrument, which has become indispensable for Austria. After 1945, attempts were made in different parts of the world to develop standardized rules for the testing of food samples to prevent trade barriers within the respective region. In Europe for instance, the development of a Codex Alimentarius Europaeus initiated by the Austrian Hans Frenzel, and based upon the model of the Codex Alimentarius Austriacus, made good progress. A number of other European countries were involved in this project. However, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) of the United Nations were intent on impeding such regional activities to prevent trade barriers at a global level. Between 1960 and 1963, steps were taken to install a FAO/WHO Codex partly in close cooperation with the Codex Alimentarius Europaeus. Since 1963, the FAO/WHO Codex Commission has issued the FAO/WHO Codex Alimentarius, which took its name and some organizational aspects from Codex Alimentarius Europaeus, that was itself modeled after the Codex Alimentarius Austriacus. The Codex Alimentarius Europaeus was incorporated into the Codex Alimentarius Commission as the regional coordinating committee for Europe, thus providing a model for the six regional coordination committees of the Codex Alimentarius Commission existing today.