The Codex Alimentarius, or “Food Code” is a collection of standards, guidelines and codes of practice adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission. The Commission, also known as CAC, is the central part of the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme and was established by FAO and WHO to protect consumer health and promote fair practices in food trade.
Codex committee on Spices and culinary herbs(CCSCH), is one of the subsidiary bodies under CAC. It is an exclusive committee for spices and culinary herbs to elaborate standards in harmonization with worldwide standards. The committee was established in July 2013 by the CAC at its 36th meeting held at Rome.
India is the host country and Spices Board, Kochi act as the secretariat for CCSCH.
Terms of Reference of CCSCH:
1. To elaborate worldwide standards for spices and culinary herbs in their dried and dehydrated state in whole, ground, and cracked or crushed form;
2. To consult, as necessary, with other international organizations in the standards development process to avoid duplication.
The Indian initiative for the establishment of an exclusive Committee for Spices, Culinary Herbs was taken to bring about harmony and transparency in fixing global quality standards for spices, herbs and formulations.
India has made the proposal at the Codex Alimentarius Commission in its 35thsession held at Rome during 2 to 7 July 2012. The proposal was discussed at length at the session during which, several countries supported the proposal but generally sought more time for consideration. It was also mentioned that instead of establishing a Committee, consideration should be given to the establishment of a time-limited Task Force. It was concluded that India should prepare a discussion paper which should be considered by the six FAO/WHO Coordinating Committees before the matter comes up for discussion at the Commission at its 36thSession.
India prepared a discussion paper in August, 2012 which was circulated by the Codex Secretariat to the Coordinating Committees.
Indian representatives were deputed to attend and make presentation on the proposal at the meetings of the six Coordinating Committees were held in different locations namely:-
(1) Madang, (Papua New Guinea) for the North America and South West Pacific region (CCNASWP) during 19-22 September 2012;
(2) Batumi (Georgia) for the European region (CCEURO) during 25-28 September 2012;
(3) Tokyo (Japan) for the Asian region (CCASIA) during 5-9 November 2012;
(4) San Jose, Costa Rica for the region of Latin America and the Caribbean countries (CCLAC) during 19-23 November 2012;
(5) Beirut (Lebanon) for the Near East region (CCNEA) during 21-25 January 2013; and
(6) Yaounde (Cameroon) for the African region (CCAFRICA) during 29 January 01,February 2013.
Each of the six regions discussed India’s proposal in depth and put in a multitude of observations. Even though there was sufficient support on the proposal from most of the members, there were reservations from certain countries with apprehensions on its formation. The feedback and the constructive criticism from the various Coordinating Committees have contributed to reframing the initial discussion paper which was then circulated via the Codex Secretariat for review by the members before the forthcoming session of CAC. The revised discussion paper takes into account all the relevant issues raised by the member countries in the Coordinating Committees. The Government of India appends whole host significance to the proposal for establishment of a Codex Committee on Spices and Culinary herbs accounting to interest and support of the farmer community in all the spices and herb producing countries. This global mission is expected to bring in an answer to all the trade disparities in the spices sector and is aimed at ensuring fair practices in spice trade, in turn beneficial to the exporting as well as importing countries.
Four work proposals for Pepper, Rosemary, Cumin and Thyme were submitted to the Codex for consideration to underscore and exemplify the scope of the work of harmonization. India’s proposal has come up for discussion and deliberation at the 36th CAC session at Rome during 1-5 July, 2013, when Codex celebrated its Golden Jubilee. Spices Board India representatives who formed part of the Indian delegation to the 36th Session had interacted with representatives from other members and observers of Codex. The lobbying has helped in the culmination of decision of the Codex Alimentarius Commission to form the exclusive Codex Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs (CCSCH) with the following Terms of Reference. (The original proposal was for spices, aromatic herbs and their formulations. This was revised to spices and culinary herbs based on the decisions taken at the floor.)
Though the use of these products are in miniscule quantities when compared to the use of other farm commodities, the extent of its profound influence and depth of its activation in enhancing the true flavour and aroma of food is simply beyond description. It is not too much to state that spices and herbs are becoming more essential not only in providing tasteful food, beverages, supplements but also gaining the status of a vital ingredient in pharmaceutical and many other food industries. With this importance in backdrop, the Spices Board India, the organization of the Government of India put forward a proposal to the Codex Alimentarius Commission for the establishment of an exclusive Codex Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs. Constitution of such a Committee hosted by India will definitely contribute to gains for producing countries for quality exports besides ensuring fair trade that will help thousands of spices and herb growers who are not very wealthy. The major buyers of Spices, Culinary herbs and formulations are the developed countries who import not only for their consumption but also for re-exports and this Committee will contribute to smoothening their trade and commerce in these commodities.