The Guyana National Bureau of Standards (GNBS) which functions as the Codex Contact Point has been facilitating the development of standards relating to food and agriculture to enhance the products, services and systems of these sectors. A key international partner in this effort is the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC). The CAC was established in 1962 to implement the Joint Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)/ World Health Organisation (WHO) Food Standards Programme.
Implementation of Codex standards is voluntary, and the translation of these standards into national legislations or regulations is required for their enforcement. Implementation and enforcement of these standards ensure the fair trade of safe foods. Codex standards offer science- based recommendations in all areas related to food safety and quality; and they are referenced in World Trade Organisation (WTO) trade negotiations.
Guyana became a member to CAC in 1970 and subsequently the GNBS was identified as the National Codex Contact Point (NCCP). The NCCP acts as the Secretariat for the CAC; meaning that it coordinates ‘ALL’ Codex activities within Guyana and it is the major communication link between the CAC and Guyana.
Meeting of the Codex Committee
To expedite the work of Codex, a National Codex Committee (NCC) was established. This Committee’s mandate is to facilitate national discussions on food safety issues affecting local producers and consumers with the aim of contributing to the discussions during the development of Codex standards. The NCC has a formalized structure and its members include representative from the Ministry of Public Health, Ministry of Agriculture, Inter-American Institute for Corporation on Agriculture, Guyana Consumer Association, Faculty of Natural Sciences and the Guyana Manufacturers Services Association. The NCC meets monthly to discuss food safety related issues and make recommendations to eliminate them using the Codex standards.
Recently the NCC discussed ways of creating more awareness of the use of the two Guyana Standards for coconut water; that is, GYS 508:2013, Specification for Packaged natural coconut water and GCP 30: 2013, Code of Practice for Packaged natural coconut water. Codex standards were used along with other referenced documents to create these two standards. Additionally, the NCC is seeking to collaborate with different food safety agencies as a means of reaching food handlers to sensitize them on the use of Codex standards as a way of improving their food handling practices.
Additionally, the two year South-South Cooperation Project (which began in 2016) provided an opportunity for Guyana to build its capacity in Codex. Through this project, Guyana benefitted from technical support that gave rise to a five (5) years Strategic plan for Codex activities in Guyana and a national Codex procedural manual. One of the activities outlined in the strategic plan is to facilitate workshops in all administrative regions of the country providing information about Codex Alimentarius with the objective of establishing an effective communication strategy to promote the awareness/importance of Codex. All food handlers, food manufacturers, food processors and food vendors can benefit from these workshops.
Food producers can download free copies of Codex standards from the Codex website http://www.fao.org/fao-who-codexalimentarius/home/en/. The GNBS will continue to utilize the Codex standards in the development of national food standards to ensure that internationally recognised requirements and best practices are used by our local industry.