The decision of the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), the international food standards-setting body jointly set up by the FAO and the WHO, to adopt three Codex standards for pepper, cumin and thyme, at its just concluded meeting in Geneva, is not only a recognition of India’s stellar role to benchmark and harmonise global spices trade but it could also herald the entry of more spices and herbs in the list for universal trading of safe and quality spices in various countries, the Spices Board said today.
Spices Board Chairman Dr A Jayathilak, who convened a meeting of the officials and delegates involved with the work and functioning of the Codex Committee on Spices and Culinary Herbs (CCSCH) at Bolgatty Palace Kochi, said the historic decision of the CAC signalled the fact that spices had been included for the first time as commodities having universal standards.
“This feat was achieved after India’s relentless efforts to set up the CCSCH, which conducted its three sessions at Kochi (2014), Goa (2015) and Chennai (2017) to create a common standardization process for global spices trade,” he noted.
Lauding the efforts of the officials and delegates for this major recognition of India’s initiatives to forge a universal agreement on identifying quality spices in various countries, Dr. Jayathilak said the Codex standards for black, white and green pepper, cumin and thyme were adopted by consensus with an overwhelming support from the member-countries of the CAC.
Chairman Spices Board countered the arguments of those delegations that were not in favour of the final adoption of these standards by presenting India’s stand before the CAC.
In the meeting at Kochi, he briefly traced the history of the CCSCH committee, which was the first new committee to be approved by Codex in the past 25 years, and outlined the strategic moves that convinced the member-countries to vote for approval of the new committee.
“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,” he said.
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 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 met in Rome from July 1-5, 2013, deliberated on this proposal from India, and later approved it with unanimous support of the member-countries. It heralded the creation of CCSCH, 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 organization of the Central Government for export and promotion of spices from the country, has always been concerned about this aspect, and hence has taken keen interest in harmonizing the disparate standards for spices which exist all over the world.
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