Global Standards Agreed for Traded Dairy Products

NEW ZEALAND - The country's reputation as the land of milk and cheese was reinforced when an international milk and milk products standard setting body met here and successfully wrapped up 16 years of work.
calendar icon 16 February 2010
clock icon 3 minute read

More than 130 delegates from 34 member countries and five observer organisations convened last week in Auckland for the ninth session of the Codex Committee on Milk and Milk Products (CCMMP), which sets globally accepted food standards for international trade in these products.

New Zealand Food Safety Authority reports that science director of the New Zealand Food Safety Authority, Dr Steve Hathaway, who has chaired the committee's meetings for the past 10 years, is delighted it has completed its ambitious work programme.

He said: "Having robust and scientifically justified standards for a wide range of dairy commodities helps smooth the way for their trade, which is a great advantage for modern and efficient dairying nations like New Zealand, which provides a third of world dairy exports."

The last six CCMMP meetings have been held in New Zealand.

Dr Hathaway added: "Hosting the meetings has enabled us to showcase our products and technology, and delegates have been able to taste our world-class dairy products, as well as see how our dairy industry operates both at the manufacturing and retail level."

Fonterra's regulatory and food assurance manager, Roger Hall, is a member of the New Zealand delegation to CCMMP. He says having internationally-agreed dairy standards is invaluable in helping the company trade with more than 140 markets globally, and they help maintain the value for dairy commodities.

Mr Hall said: "New Zealand is recognised around the world for the safety and quality of our dairy products.

"The work of CCMMP on developing global standards has provided a greater level of customer and consumer assurance around the integrity, safety and quality of our dairy products in international trade. It is also very important to the value of Fonterra's export sales that global standards are set to ensure that dairy commodities made to an appropriate standard are not undercut by lower quality products."

At last week's meeting, the committee adopted a new draft standard for drinks based on fermented milk, which are growing in popularity particularly in Asia. It will ensure such drinks contain at least 40 per cent fermented milk, a contentious limit for some delegations to CCMMP, and that the label clearly reflect the milk content.

Dr Hathaway explained: "This allows all products, whether they contain the minimum or higher amounts of fermented milk to be traded freely and leaves it to the consumer to decide which they prefer."

The committee agreed to discontinue work to develop a new standard for processed cheese products as there was lack of agreement on key issues such as their composition.

He continued: "This means the trade of processed cheese will continue to be driven by the requirements and specifications operating in different markets under bilateral agreement with each trading partner setting the criteria for what they want a processed cheese to look like."

This is only the second time in the committee's 16 years that delegates could not agree to progress an issue and Dr Hathaway emphasises that in both cases it was not about food safety.

He added: "It's about trading partners wanting to advance their national interests and positions. They couldn't decide on a definition and they will now continue to use their own one. Fortunately, international trade is not currently hampered by the lack of an international standard for this product”

The committee did recommend revoking the existing processed cheese standards, which were prescriptive and did not allow for the use of new technology or modern ingredients.

Dr Hathaway said: "Removing the old standards opens the way for product innovation, which New Zealanders are very good at."

New Zealand exports of dairy product account for one-third of the global trade and bring NZ$11.3 billion in annual earnings.

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