The Codex. For those of us who've been around the block and researched every nook and cranny of our food, we've found in our searches references to the Codex, which is the bible of international food safety and labeling standards.
However, finding it and understanding what it is and what it means.. Lets just say its not easy. So first, some history.
In the 1960's, FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) and WHO (World Health Organization) created a special commission to develop food standards, guidelines, etc. as codes of practice under the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme. This commission is called: The Codex Alimentarius Commission.
For more history on the Codex Alimentarius Commission: Origins of the Codex Alimentarius
The General Principles of the Codex Alimentarius state: “The publication of the Codex Alimentarius is intended to guide and promote the elaboration and establishment of definitions and requirements for foods to assist in their harmonization and in doing so to facilitate international trade.”
A principal concern of national governments is that food imported from other countries should be safe and not jeopardize the health of consumers or pose a threat to the health and safety of their animal and plant populations.
To read up more on the Codex Alimentarius: Understanding the Codex Alimentarius
To avoid too much confusion, the Codex and the Codex Alimentarius Commission aren't the same thing though they share names. When sites refer to the Codex, they are most generally referring to the document of food standards and pratices set up by the commission, not the commission itself, such is the case in this article.
You can find the Codex on the Codex Alimentarius site. There are several documents and a ton of legalese, but once you know what you're looking for, you might find the answers there rather scary.
Main problems with the current Codex standards (mainly labeling):
"22.214.171.124 The following foods and ingredients are known to cause hypersensitivity and shall always be declared: "
Of the following foods such as: wheat, rye, barley, oats, spelt, seafood, eggs, fish, milk, tree nuts, and sulfites.. Corn is not mentioned or included. We need to get this changed.
"126.96.36.199 Where an ingredient is itself the product of two or more ingredients, such a compound ingredient may be declared, as such, in the list of ingredients, provided that it is immediately accompanied by a list, in brackets, of its ingredients in descending order of proportion (m/m). Where a compound ingredient (for which a name has been established in a Codex standard or in national legislation) constitutes less than 5% of the food, the ingredients, other than food additives which serve a technological function in the finished product, need not be declared."
So if you have an ingredient such as turkey broth and the corn starch in it is less than 5% of the total food ingredients, it doesn't have to be listed.
"188.8.131.52 A food additive carried over into a food in a significant quantity or in an amount sufficient to perform a technological function in that food as a result of the use of raw materials or other ingredients in which the additive was used shall be included in the list of ingredients. The exemption does not apply to food additive and processing aids listed in section 184.108.40.206.
220.127.116.11 A food additive carried over into foods at a level less than that required to achieve a technological function, and processing aids, are exempted from declaration in the list of ingredients. The exemption does not apply to food additives and processing aids listed in section 18.104.22.168."
This is one of the reasons why we need corn listed in section 22.214.171.124. This is one of the ways that corn derivatives get sneaked into products and not labeled. This means corn starch used to clean equipment isn't labeled. Citric acid washes aren't labeled. Corn starch used to line the packaging isn't labeled.
The "significant quantity" mentioned in 126.96.36.199 is addressed in the Codex - General Standard for Food Additives (GSFA) which has some scary levels for some of these additives.
Words (abbreviations) that you'll see often:
GSFA - General Standard for Food Additives
GRAS - Generally Reguarded as Safe
GMP - Good Manufacturing Practices
Codex - Food Labelling
Codex - General Standard for Food Additives (GSFA) (on page - click to view current version of this. You'll need to have Acrobat Reader installed as it is a PDF)
Codex - Current Official Standards (also gives dates on when it was last reviewed)
My brain is all fuzzy from reading all these pages, so if you find something I missed or a correction needed. Please leave a comment.