International Organization for Standardization (ISO)

ISO standards contribute to meeting World Food Day 2008 challenge

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World Food Day 2008 addresses what has been categorized by many as one of the greatest challenges of our time: climate change and its impact on food security. ISO has here an important contribution to make, not only through its numerous International Standards on food related issues, but also through standards that help quantify and mitigate climate change. World Food Day is organized by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Commission (FAO) each year on the 16 October. The event provides an opportunity to highlight the plight of the 862 million undernourished people in the world – a number that FAO warns could be pushed even higher if the threat of global warming and the consequences of a rising demand for bioenergy are not addressed.

ISO’s portfolio of environmental standards provides practical tools for addressing these issues. Among these are ISO 14001 which has become the global benchmark for environmental management systems, ISO 14064 which gives the requirements for quantifying, monitoring and reporting on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and ISO 14065 which specifies accreditation requirements for organizations validating or verifying GHG emission assertions.

ISO Secretary-General Alan Bryden comments: “Climate change mitigation, energy efficiency, water supply and food security are inter-related challenges – all of which ISO addresses through its existing standards and current developments.”

Issues directly related to food are mainly addressed through ISO/TC 34, the ISO technical committee developing standards on food products. The committee currently offers 725 standards and related documents.

Its work covers practically all agricultural products for human consumption and animal feeding stuffs ranging from fruits to cereals to poultry and coffee to name a few. About 65 % of its standards concern testing and analytical methods, and are directly targeted at agricultural producers, food manufacturers, laboratories, merchants/retailers, consumers and regulators.

Among ISO developments of recent years relating to the concerns of World Food Day are the following:

  • a new subcommittee of ISO/TC 34 to develop standards on the topical subject of biomarkers
  • the ISO 22000 series of standards for safe food supply chains, already implemented by an estimated 4 000 organizations in 93 countries at the end of 2007
  • standards for the detection of genetically modified organisms and derived products in food
  • guidelines for quantitative ingredient declarations to help consumers know what they are eating
  • waste reduction by biotechnological methods and enhancement of the conversion of waste materials for the manufacturing of new added value products.

Fifty-four countries participate in the work of ISO/TC 34 and another 53 have observer status. Representatives from these countries are coming together on 16-17 October, 2008 for a plenary meeting in Paris, France. The event will provide an opportunity to discuss current projects and propose new areas of work, as well as to address organizational and administrative issues.

Other ISO committees develop standards that can contribute to the goals of World Food Day, including ISO/TC 234, a recently formed committee developing standards for sustainable fishing and aquaculture.

ISO has a strong partnership with many United Nations agencies concerned with food issues. They participate as liaison organizations in a number of ISO committees: among them are the World Health Organization (WHO), FAO, and the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC).

Another noteworthy example of partnership is that between ISO and the International Dairy Federation (IDF) who work together to prepare and publish analytical methods. Following recent concerns with melamine found in milk products, IDF and ISO are jointly investigating how to tackle this issue through the standards they develop.

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