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CODEX ALIMENTARIUS: Outcome of 17th Codex Committee on Toxins and Contaminants in Foods (CCCF17)
Monday, June 10, 2024

The 17th meeting of the Codex Committee (on Toxins and) Contaminants in Foods (CCCF17) was held in Panama City (Panama) from 15 to 19 April 2024. CCCF17 was productive as it adopted new maximum limits (ML) for lead in several commodities (such as spices), lead and cadmium in Quinboa, a new sampling plan for methylmercury in fish and a new Code of Practice for the Prevention and Reduction of Ciguatera Poisoning. CCCF17 decided to initiate work on a new code of practice for the prevention and reduction of cadmium in foods as well as total afatoxins in ready-to-eat peanuts. CCCF17 agreed to explore future possible work on acrylamide, pyrrolizidine and tropane alkaloids, and Afatoxin B1 in feed for milk-producing animals. CCCF17 confirmed future JECFA priorities to include perfuoroalkyl substances, ETO and 2-CE, or scopoletin in fermented noni juice. The JECA October 2025 meeting will assess Arsenic and Dioxins and Dioxin-Like

The session was largely virtual but took place in Panama City (Panama). It was be preceded by two virtual meetings on (a) the review of Codex standards for contaminants; (b) the follow-up to the outcomes of JECFA evaluations and joint FAO/WHO expert consultations; (c) the priority list of contaminants for evaluation by JECFA; (d) maximum limits for lead in certain food categories; (e) the sampling plan for methylmercury in fish; (f) a guidance on data analysis for development of maximum levels and for improved data collection.


CCCF17 sent to the next Codex Alimentarius Commission meeting (CAC47) the following Maximum Limits (MLs) and other texts, for final adoption by CAC, to be held in November 2024 (Geneva, Switzerland):

  • Lead in the following spices (“whole, ground, powder, crushed”), dried aril (0.9 ppm); dried seeds (0.9 ppm, noting that ML does not apply to dried celery seeds whereby relevant Codex commodity standards are CXS 327 (Cumin)
    and CXS 352 (Nutmeg)) and separate ML for celery seeds (1.5 ppm); dried rhizomes and roots (2.0 ppm, relevant to products conforming to
    CXS 343 (Dried or dehydrated ginger); dried floral parts (2.5 ppm and applicable to products conforming to CXS 344 (Cloves)); and dried fruit
    and berries (0.6 ppm) including separate MLs for Sichuan pepper and Star anise (3.0 ppm) as well as for Paprika and Sumac (0.8 ppm also relevant to products conforming to CXS 353 (Dried or Dehydrated Chilli Pepper and Paprika).
    • Lead (0.2 ppm) and Cadmium (0.15 ppm) in Quinoa and products conforming to CXS 333 (Quinoa) (noting that a dedicated call for data was issued by JECFA in November 2023)
    • Sampling plans for methylmercury in fish (subject to endorsement by CCMAS and noting that data were scarce on MeHg fish tissues distribution, except for Tuna), as developed by an EWG and a VWG successfully lead by New Zealand.
    • Code of Practice for the Prevention and Reduction of Ciguatera Poisoning – while an information document containing a list of relevant resources helpful in monitoring and training about Ciguatera poisoning will be posted on Codex website to help competent authorties and business operators with the implementation of the Code of Practice.


Advancing MLs for Lead in dried bark and dried culinary herbs – CCCF17 advanced discussions on MLs for Lead in other spices such as dried bark (2.5 ppm) and in dried culinary herbs (2.5 ppm applicable to the whole commodity; noting that ML for fresh culinary herbs may be derived based on the moisture content of the fresh herb in relation to the dried herb). A new electronic working group (EWG), led by Brazil was established to continue the elaboration of ML for Lead in these products and eventually other products.

Sampling plans for total afatoxins and ochratoxin A (OTA) in certain spices – CCCF17 advanced discussions on the above sampling plan for OTA in (a) whole nutmeg, whole dried chili and whole paprika, (b) crushed/cracked/broken/fakes of nutmeg, dried chili and paprika, and (c) powdered spices obtained by grinding nutmeg, dried chili and paprika. A newly established EWG lead by India is supposed to present a revise document at CCCF18 for possible final approval and resolve a number of pending issues relating to the development of numeric performance criteria and amending the sampling method for powdered spices. The EU had indicated that their more advanced sampling plan for powdered spices could be further used. CCCF17 agreed to include in square brackets alternate proposals for incremental sample size and aggregate sample weights for powdered spices (section C of the sampling plan) for further consideration by the EWG. CCCF17 also requested CCEXEC86 to ex-tend the timeline for completion of this work to 2025.

MLs for total afatoxins in ready-to-eat peanuts and associated sampling plan returned for further elaboration – CCCF17 agreed to apply the existing
definition for Ready-To-Eat (RTE) tree nuts (set in the Codex GSTCF, CXS 193) to RTE peanuts and re-establish a new EWG chaired by India and co-chaired by USA to develop a ML for total afatoxins (AFT) in RTE peanuts and its associated sampling plan in advance of CCCF18. For that work, CCCF17 agreed that the EWG should work closely with the GEMS/Food Administra-tor as well as the WG on Data Analysis, while taking into consideration the past discussions held in that regard during CCCF15 (see CCCF15 report). To support that work, CCCF17 asked JECFA to issue a new call for data, with a strong guidance to specify whether the presence of AFT reported in the raw peanuts would refer to RTE or For Further Processing (FFP) and CCCF17 specifically requested the WHO GEMS/Food Database administrator to clarify this point with each country that had submitted data in the past and would submit new data in response to this new JECFA call. The administrator confirmed that more than 80% of the supplied data so far could not be categorized (FFP or RTE, unknown), in particular the data supplied for raw peanuts. For the future analysis of the data already collected, it was emphasized that such objective could be further met with further clarity of the template used to report on occurrence data into WHO GEMS/Foods Database and ensure consistency in the reporting. Data would be requested from 2014 onwards, to capture 10 years of data to allow comparison before and after implementation of the Code of Practice for the Prevention and Reduction of Afatoxin Contamination in Peanuts (CXC 55). Also, further guidance would need to be provided for raw peanuts (shelled or in-shell) to specify whether raw peanuts were for FFP or RTE. In case it would not be possible to identify into the current GEMS/Food database whether AFT values would refer to RTE or FFP peanuts, such data would not be used for the establishment of the ML. Peanut butter was also excluded for being considered as RTE peanuts.

MLs for lead in spices, dried flowers; and fresh culinary herbs – CCCF17 reestablished a new EWG, chaired by Brazil, to work on MLs for Lead in dried bark and dried culinary herbs, and consider the relevance of the note on moisture content to the ML for fresh culinary herbs, for comments and consideration by CCCF18. CCCF17 requested that in the meantime JECFA should issue a call for data for Lead in spices, dried bark, (including a note not to submit data that could be related to economic adulteration) and dried culinary herbs. Finally, the EWG should perform an analysis of the available data for spice mixtures for consideration by CCCF18. CCCF17 also requested the Codex Secretariat to issue a CL requesting comments on application of MLs to multi-ingredient products.


Code of Practice on Cadmium in Foods – CCCF17 reached a landmark decision in deciding to develop formally a new Code of practice for the prevention and reduction of cadmium contamination in foods and determine the need for the development of annexes with commodity specific recommendations. For that purpose, a new EWG led by USA was established to develop a text for consideration at step 4 at CCCF18.

This decision was taken given that (a) there was enough information to start work on this Code of Practice, (b) existing consumer advice or regional standards could be useful to study the various factors affecting cadmium levels in seafood, and (c) annexes on commodity-specific recommendations would depend on information provided to the EWG, noting that rice, cereals and cereal products, vegetables, fish, and seafood should be prioritized because they were likely to contribute significantly to cadmium exposure.

Code of Practice for Afatoxins in RTE Peanuts (CXC 55) – While not waiting for the outcome of the discussion on the proposed ML for AFT in RTE peanuts, CCCF17 agreed to start the revision of the related Code of Practice for the Prevention and Reduction of Afatoxin Contamination in Peanuts (CXC 55) which has not been revised since its adoption in 2004. To this end, the Committee established a new EWG chaired by Brazil and co-chaired by India to present a proposed revised Code at CCCF18.


Revised JECFA Priority List and JECFA calls for data – CCCF17 discussed pending and new proposals for inclusion in the priority list of contaminants for evaluation by JECFA. It confirmed the availability of data for: (a) the full evaluation (toxicological assessment and exposure assessment) to update 2001 JECFA assessment and incorporate data on developmental effects from in utero exposures for dioxins and diox-in-like PCBs, as sponsored by Canada; (b) the evaluation of non-cancer effects (neurodevelopmental, immunological and cardiovascular) for Inorganic Arsenic, noting that this review should be put in the context of cancer risk assessment given that the 2011 JECFA evaluation focused on cancer effects — so that it could inform future risk management needs — and consider the like for organic arsenic (as an exploratory review) as sponsored by the USA; (c) a full evaluation (toxicological assessment and exposure assessment) of scopoletin in fermented noni juice as per a request from CCNASWP; (d) a full evaluation (toxicological assessment and exposure assessment) of Thllium which may be present particularly in Bras-sica-containing foods, as sponsored by USA; (e) the full evaluation (toxicological assessment and exposure assessment) of Perfuoroalkyl substances (e.g. PFOS, PFOA, PFNA, PFHxS), as sponsored by Singapore; (f) a full evaluation (toxicological assessment and exposure assessment) of Ethylene oxide (ETO) and 2-chloroethanol (2-CE) as sponsored by Indonesia. It was also noted that JECFA has already issued a call for data already for (a) dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs and (b) Arsenic (inorganic and organic) (see JECFA101 call for data), foreseeing that the 101st meeting of JECFA will be held in Geneva in October 2025 and its report will be likely available for consideration at the earliest at the CCCF19 likely to be held in 2026. Data will reach JECFA by 1st December 2024. Based on that schedule, none of the other priorities listed would be considered by JECFA before 2026 at the earliest (and therefore CCCF may meet twice before then as well). A newly established EWG led by the USA will continue to collect request and confirmation of data availability to amend the JECFA Priority List.

Follow-up work to the outcomes of JECFA evaluations and FAO/WHO expert consultations + WG (USA) and inputs from JECFA, FAO and WHO – The European Union, as Chair of the virtual working group (VWG), presented the outcome of the April meeting on CRD05. Several recommendations on possible follow-up actions to the outcomes of JECFA evaluations and FAO/WHO expert consultations, about (a) the risks and benefits of fish consumption (held in October 2023, report available at https://www.who.int/publications/m/item/ad-hoc-joint-fao-who-expert-consultation-on-risks-and-benefts-of-fsh-con-sumption) and (b) the follow-up to JECFA evaluations on ergot alkaloids and T-2, HT-2 toxin and diacetoxy-scirpenol (DAS).

With regards to the risk benefits of fish consumption, several aspects were discussed in the context of the other work of CCCF on the Guidance on data analysis for development of data collection: (a) the collection of standardized data on fish contaminants and nutrients, (b) the development, maintenance, and improvement of existing databases on levels and trends over time of specifc contaminants, in particular for methylmercury (MeHg), dioxins and dioxin like-PCBs, as well as nutrient content, such as selenium and long chain omega-3 fatty acids (LCn3PUFAs), (c) fish consumed by region. With regards to the follow-up on past JECFA evaluations on ergot alkaloids and T-2, HT-toxin and diacetoxyscirpenol, it was recommended that CCCF17 should establish two separate EWGs to prepare separate discussion papers on ergot alkaloids and on T 2, HT-2, and DAS in order to look into the need and feasibility of possible follow-up actions for further consideration by CCCF18, especially about analytical performance characteristics as guidance for generation and submission of data to the GEMS/Food database. Given the lack of any volunteering Codex member to draft much discussion papers, CCCF17 deferred that question to CCCF18. In the meantime, it was agreed that this workstream be integrated into the workstream on the list of priorities for JECFA evaluation and that the issues related to methyl mercury be deferred to the CCCF workstream covering Guidance on data analysis for development of maximum levels and for improved data collection, in particular its part on data collection and submission. CCCF17 agreed with the offer of Japan to prepare an information document that would list all the previous JECFA evaluations as well as all the previous FAO/WHO expert consultations and what type of follow-up CCCF gave to these reports, USA also suggested that the document would need to separate out the most recent evaluations as part of the report of the outcomes of the working group on the priority list/follow-up to JECFA evaluations (led by the USA). Japan and USA were and to further coordinate. The list of older evaluations would be included as an Annex to an INF document meant to be updated yearly by Japan and the Netherlands.


Emerging issues: Environment Inhibitors and Mineral Oil Hydrocarbons – CCCF17 noted the respective contribution of New Zealand and the European Union in responding to a dedicated circular letter in advance to the meeting. New Zealand focused on Environmental Inhibitors and their intention to organize informal workshops as side events to the forthcoming meetings of the Codex Committees on Pesticide Residues (CCPR) and on Residues from Veterinary Drug in Foods (CCRVDF) The European Union contribution focused on several issues ranging from heavy metals presence in algae and seaweeds, the presence of Quinolizidine alkaloids in lupins and lupin-derived food and moreover the EU internal discussions to establish new Maximum Limits and Indicative Limits to limit respectively the presence of mineral oil aromatic hydrocarbons (MOAH) and mineral oil saturated hydrocarbons (MOSH) in many food items. FAO reminded CCCF17 about the FAO/WHO Expert Meeting on Seaweed (2021) as well as a recent FAO foresight meeting on plant-based food products and their associated food safety issues (2023). CCCF17 further agreed that the future discussions about this Foresight exercise would be held as a side event rather than a standing item on its future meetings’ agenda. However, a dedicated circular letter would be issued to identify CCCF-relevant emerging issues.

Possible Future Work on Codex Guidance Document on Safety Aspects Related to the Use of Recycled Materials in Food Contact Packaging – The Codex Secretariat indicated that although the deadline for responding to a Codex Circular Letter issued as a follow up to the discussion held during the CAC46 meeting (see CAC46 report), Codex Members were invited to contribute to the new Strategic Plan by engaging with their Regional Coordinators. It was further suggested that a Joint working group between the CCCF and CCFA (food additives) could be created, as both committees had relevant experts to lead such work. Members and Observers were invited to submit any relevant information and proposals in reply to the CL as these comments would be further considered by the CAC47 in November 2024.

FAO report on challenges of circular economy for food safety – FAO indicated they would produce a report analyzing current and emerging evidence to
manage food safety into a fully transitioned circular economy. Indeed, the benefits of circularity will lead to challenges in relation to potential (re) introduction, persistence, and/or accumulation of contaminants in such closed or semi-closed circular systems. The report would explore four areas, i.e., water reuse, food loss and waste, packaging waste, and integrated farming systems.


Revision of the Code of Practice for the Reduction of Acrylamide in Foods (CXC 67) – CCCF17 agreed to reestablish a new EWG, chaired by India and co-chaired by Saudi Arabia, to develop a discussion paper including a project document including a proposal for a draft revised Code of Practice given that CXC67 was approved in 2009. The Codex Secretariat was requested to issue a circular letter seeking information on possible new risk management measures known for helping in the reduction of acrylamide in certain foods.

Revision of the Code of Practice for the Reduction of Afatoxin B1 in Raw Materials and Supplemental Feedingstufs for Milk-Producing Animals (CXC 45)
CCCF17 agreed to reestablish a new EWG chaired by Canada and co-chaired by Saudi Arabia to revise the discussion paper containing the project document and the proposed revised code for a possible new work as it has not been updated since its first adoption in 1997. The EWG is also tasked to consider how different Codes of Practices on the same topic may be integrated or merged to avoid overlap, inconsistencies, and redundancies.

Revision of the Code of Practice to Prevent and Reduce Pyrrolizidine Alkaloid Contamination in Food and Feed (CXC 74) – CCCF17 agreed to establish a new EWG chaired by Türkiye, co-chaired by the United Kingdom and The Netherlands, to develop a discussion paper containing the project document and the proposed draft revision to the existing Code of Practice to Prevent and Reduce Pyrrolizidine Alkaloid Contamination in Food and Feed (approved in 2014), to address (a) other practices such as for honey, and(b) develop further the guidance on sampling and
analysis performance characteristics for the collection of data to be submitted to the GEMS/Food database. Should CCCF18 agree on this new work, then a call for data would be issued.

New Code of Practice for Tropane Alkaloids — CCCF17 agreed to reestablish a new EWG, chaired by China and co-chaired by Saudi Arabia, to prepare a revised discussion paper including a project document and the proposed text for this new Code of Practice for consideration by CCCF18. CCCF17 also requested JECFA Secretariat to issue a call for data on tropane alkaloid contamination in food and feed, with guidance to indicate the sampling plans.


FAO/IAEA Information document on natural radio-nuclides in food and water – The representative of the UN-International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) indicated that the expected information document on the presence of natural radionuclides in food, feed and water would be updated in advance to the CCCF18
meeting, taking into account the comments provided by Codex members. The document – to be prepared by the Joint FAO/IAEA Centre of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture — would also reflect the foresee-able revised information to be published by the United Nations Scientific committee on the Effect of Atomic Radiation (UN-SCEAR) due before end 2024.

Numeric Performance Criteria for methods for Total Afatoxins utilizing the sum of components concept (in relevant sampling plans) – CCCF17 requested
Brazil to revise the Numeric Performance Criteria for methods for Total Afatoxins utilizing the sum of components concept and also requested JECFA to issue a call for data to support review of the MLs for total afatoxins in various cereal products and prepare an overview paper to facilitate CCCF18 to take any possible decision for the review of the MLs. A new EWG chaired by Brazil was established to advance
that work.

Guidance on data analysis for ML development and improved data collection – CCCF17 discussed and agreed upon a new working procedure to finalize the guidance on data analysis for development of maximum levels (MLs) and for improved data collection. Given that these guidelines on data analysis were being developed for internal CCCF working procedure, this work could also be undertaken by a CCCF presession working group (which could operate in a physical or virtual mode) or during an in-session working group, noting that other VWG meetings could address specific sections in advance and their outcome would be circulated for consideration by such PWG. The Codex EWG Platform could also be used to facilitate this work. CCCF17 agreed that the work priorities for the coming year were to (a) finalize the modifications to the GEMS/Food database template and related guidance (with one VWG meeting to discuss data
collection and submission and data extraction); and (b) focus on the structure and the content of the main document for the section data selection/clean-up and statistical data analysis (noting that a decision would be needed to prioritize and resolve the more complex issues fist in separate Annex(es) to the main document and be subject to a dedicated VWG meeting). The work will continue to be coordinated between the European Union (Chair) and Japan, The Netherlands, and the USA (co-Chairs). On the substantive part CCCF17 agreed with the feedback provided to the GEMS/Food database administrator based on preliminary comments made at CCCF16 on the GEMS/Food database template, as outlined in CCCF17’s CRD07. Finally, CCCF17 agreed with the intention to produce a document that would provide practical guidance to the EWG performing data analysis for the development of MLs, for consideration by CCCF18. The most complex issues identified would be addressed in separate annexes that would be developed and discussed post-CCCF18, following completion of the main guidance, together with the issues identified for future discussion (see Appendix II of CX/CF 24/17/17 and CRD07 Annex III).

Review of Codex standards for contaminants –
CCCF17 agreed to amend the Lists A, B and OHPL with edits presented in paragraphs 23 of CCCF17’s CRD04(Rev.), including recommendations for edits to the OHPL (Overall High Priority List), additions and deletions to the List A (Codex Contaminant Standards Established or Reviewed ≥25 and ≥15 and >25 Years Ago), and List B (Codex Contaminant Standards Recommended for Re-Evaluation). While maintaining the prioritization of existing Codex contaminant standards for review as an annual CCCF agenda item, it was agreed that a Circular Letter (CL) be issued, and that Canada would continue to present the recommendations of the WG to CCCF plenary. Such CL would include question on whether requests from
CCMAS on the review of sampling plans was appropriate for this item or would best fit under another agenda item. CCCF17 agreed to re-convene the WG chaired by Canada as needed.


Based on CCCF17 decisions, three dedicated circular letters will be issued by the Codex Secretariat requesting comments or information on (a) the application on MLs to multi-ingredient products; (b) new risk management measures for the reduction of acrylamide in food; (c) emerging issues relevant to CCCF. The JECFA Secretariat will issue calls for data on (i) total afatoxins in various cereal products (ii) lead in dried bark and dried culinary herbs; (iii) total afatoxins in ready-to-eat peanuts; (iv) tropane alkaloid contamination in food and feed. JECFA Secretariat would also perform an analysis of the available data for lead in spice mixtures.

The next CCCF plenary meeting (CCCF18) is tentatively scheduled from 23 to 27 June 2025, in a location to be further confirmed (but likely in the Netherlands).

More information about CCCF17 meeting and working documents are available here: https://www.fao.org/fao-who-codexalimentarius/meet-ings/detail/en/?meeting=CCCF&session=17&.

Official CCCF17 report is available here: https://www.fao.org/fao-who-codexalimentarius/sh-proxy/en/?lnk=1&url=https%253A%252F%252F-workspace.fao.org%252Fsites%252Fcodex%252F-Meetings%252FCX-735-17%252FReport%252FFI-NAL%252520REPORT%252FREP24_CF17e.pdf

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