AUR Food Studies and Peace Studies master’s students Carlotta Cramer, Sophia Lovett, Marshall Everett, and Walda Umutomi were selected to participate in the 60th-anniversary celebrations of the Codex Alimentarius on 27 November at the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) headquarters in Rome. As a youth delegation speaking for the future of food safety, students worked with senior officials in the Codex Alimentarius Commission to share their vision for the Codex.
The Codex Alimentarius is a joint initiative of the FAO and the World Health Organization (WHO), established in 1963 to harmonize global food safety and quality standards. Originally developed around dairy safety measures, the Codex now contains standards for all raw, processed, and semi-processed foods available to consumers and principles for food additives, pesticide use, and food labeling protocols. With 188 member countries, one member bloc (the EU), and over 240 observers, the Codex is a crucial global mechanism to protect consumers and facilitate international trade in food and feed.
The event to mark the 60th anniversary of the Codex and the 46th annual meeting of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) brought together delegates from all members and many observers over a six-day program covering plenary ceremonies, budget negotiations, debates over new standards, and specialist side events.
Representing youth voices, the Youth Delegation was invited to participate in the event's opening ceremony, looking to the future of food safety and quality while celebrating the past. The four AUR students collaborated with three students from La Sapienza to prepare a statement for the plenary session ‘The Future of the Codex Alimentarius’ of the opening ceremony, hosted by the Deputy Director General of FAO, Maria Helena Semedo, and the Assistant Director General of WHO, Dr Ailan Li.
The statement submitted to the Commission highlighted our students’ vision, linking the food safety and quality standards of the Codex to emerging challenges to our food system: these include the threat of climate change, challenges in labeling ultra-processed foods, and the opportunities presented by blockchain technologies and community monitoring systems.
Two spokespersons for the student Youth Delegation, representing both AUR and La Sapienza, spoke on behalf of the group at the event, answering questions from FAO Deputy Director General Maria Helena Semedo on why young people have a vested interest in food safety and how youth can contribute to the future of the Codex. Here, they underscored the importance of including diverse stakeholders in implementing global mechanisms and the necessity of using high-potential technologies to modernize the Codex. Hosts were particularly keen to hear about the value of technologies like blockchain and smart labeling in improving the efficiency of implementing the Codex, recognizing the importance of innovation in maintaining its relevance 60 years on.
As well as participating in the opening ceremony statement, students attended various events throughout the week. One event covered technical debates on novel food sources, while Friday’s closing side event shared voices from the regions, showing how the Codex standards can simplify national food safety systems and encourage greater regional and international trade. In discussing the stories from regional implementation, observer delegates thanked the contributions of the Youth Delegation for highlighting the need for youth engagement in ensuring the inclusive and innovative values of the Codex for the future.
Watch the youth contribution to the event at http://www.fao.org/webcast/home/en/item/6385/icode/ 2:49:00 to 2:54:30