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SPICES

CAC member nations adopt Codex standards for BWG pepper, cumin & thyme
Friday, 28 July, 2017, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Geneva
In a major recognition of India’s efforts to benchmark the global spice trade, the member countries of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), the international food standard-setting body, adopted three Codex standards for black, white and green (BWG) pepper, cumin and thyme, at its 40th session, which concluded in Geneva recently.

The unanimous approval of the adoption of standards for the three spices, which paved the way for universal agreement on identifying quality spices in various countries, is expected to facilitate the evolution of a common standardisation process for their global trade and availability.
 
The Codex standards were adopted in the wake of India conducting three sessions of Codex Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs (CCSCH) in Kochi (in 2014), Goa (in 2015) and Chennai (in 2017).

The Chennai session succeeded in achieving this consensus. Subsequently, these drafts were placed before the CAC, and it was adopted by consensus with an overwhelming support from the member countries.
 
With the adoption of the Codex standards for pepper, cumin and thyme, spices have been included for the first time as commodities that will have such universal standards.

Nirmala Sitharaman, minister of state for commerce and industry (independent charge), said the adoption of the Codex standards would imply that there are now reference points and benchmarks for the member countries to align their national standards for spices with Codex.

“It will bring harmony to the global spice trade and ensure availability of high-quality, clean and safe spices to the world, she said, adding, “It will also benefit the trade from universal agreement to identify good quality spices.”

Sitharaman said, “It may be a small beginning considering the number of commodities waiting in the ranks for the standardisation process. But what is really heartening is that spices have made a definitive entry into the league of commodities having Codex standards, and India played a key role in achieving this objective.”

This triumph of CCSCH is the harbinger of a lot of hard work ahead. The number of spices and culinary herbs is very large – although only 109 spices are notified in the ISO list, their actual number, as used in various countries, would be much higher.

It was in 2013 that the need for Codex standards for spices and herbs became a matter of concern, owing to the increased level of issues in spice trade. At that time, there was no Codex committee exclusively for spices and culinary herbs. Thus, the first step in the development of Codex standards was the establishment of a dedicated Codex committee for spices and herbs.
 
With the approval of the Central government, Spices Board India submitted to CAC a proposal for such an exclusive committee for spices and culinary herbs.

After completing the background work, it sent delegates to a series of Codex committee meetings all over the world, making a forceful plea for the need for a committee on spices and herbs.
 
The 36th session of CAC, which took place in Rome between July 1 and 5, 2013, deliberated on this proposal from India, and later approved it with unanimous support of the member countries.

It heralded the creation of CSCH, with India as the host country and Spices Board as the Secretariat. This was the first new Codex commodity committee to be approved in the past 25 years.
 
Historically, the developed countries, being the major importers of spices, have always insisted on unreasonably strict standards, which have had adverse effects on spice trade.

This is an issue that the Codex, jointly formed by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), seeks to address.
 
Spices Board India, the flagship organisation of the Central Government for the export and promotion of spices from the country, has always been concerned about this aspect, and hence has taken keen interest in harmonising the disparate standards for spices which exist all over the world.
 
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