Food safety body sets French fries, baby food rules

Mon Jul 6, 2009 2:00pm EDT
 
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MILAN (Reuters) - An international food safety body has set rules to cut levels of cancer-causing chemicals and bacteria in foodstuffs ranging from French fries to baby food, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said on Monday.

With food safety awareness growing around the world, the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a joint body of the FAO and the World Health Organization, adopted last week more than 30 new standards and guidelines to protect consumers' health, it said.

The Commission has approved measures to reduce acrylamide in foods, a chemical which may cause cancer and is produced during frying, roasting and baking of carbohydrate-rich foods: French fries, potato crisps, coffee, biscuits, pastries and breads.

"Applying Codex standards and guidelines are an important part of ensuring that consumers in every part of the world can be protected from unsafe food," Ezzeddine Boutrif, director of FAO's Nutrition and Consumer Protection Division, said in a statement.

The Commission adopted criteria for salmonella and other bacteria, E.sakazakii, in powdered follow-up formulae for children six months of age or older and for special medical purposes for young children, the statement said.

The Commission has also set microbiological testing parameters aimed to help producers control and prevent contamination of ready-to-eat foods with listeria monocytogenes which can lead to listeriosis, a potentially fatal disease.

After major scandals in China concerning use of melamine [ID:nPEK199017], a chemical used in fertilizer and plastics, the body will seek to establish maximum levels for melamine in food and feed.

It aims to "help governments differentiate between unavoidable melamine occurrence and the deliberate adulteration of food and feed."

The Commission includes 181 member states as well as the European Union and its standards are the benchmarks against which the World Trade Organization reviews countries' adherence to international trade agreements on food safety and sanitation.

(Reporting by Svetlana Kovalyova, Editing by Peter Blackburn)