Select Committee on European Scrutiny First Report


COM(01) 287

Draft Council Decision on the accession of the European Community to the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

Legal base: Articles 37, 95, 133 and 152(4) in conjunction with Article 300(3) EC; co-decision and consultation; qualified majority voting
Document originated: 30 May 2001
Forwarded to the Council: 5 June 2001
Deposited in Parliament: 20 June 2001
Department: Health
Basis of consideration: EM of 5 July 2001
Previous Committee Report: None
To be discussed in Council: No date set
Committee's assessment: Politically important
Committee's decision: Not cleared; further information requested


20.1  The Codex Alimentarius Commission is an intergovernmental body, jointly sponsored by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) to develop international food standards which aim to protect consumer health and promote fair practices in the food trade. All Community Member States are among the 160 countries which are members of Codex, but, whilst recognised international organisations are also free to attend as observers, they may not vote. As a consequence, the Community — represented by the Commission — currently is confined to observer status, and, where a consolidated Community line is agreed at meetings, this is usually presented by the Presidency.

The current proposal

20.2  Notwithstanding the position described in the previous paragraph, the Community as a member of FAO (but not WHO) has a legal entitlement to apply for membership of Codex, and, following a Council Decision in 1993 authorising the Commission to negotiate the conditions for Community accession, the current document constitutes a proposal from the Commission for a Council Decision that the Community should exercise that right, as was foreshadowed in the 1999 White Paper on Food Safety.[38] The Commission has said that such a step is essential in order to ensure that primary health and other interests of the Community and its Member States are taken into consideration during the preparation, negotiation and adoption of Codex texts. It also points out that the recommendations adopted by Codex have acquired increased legal importance by virtue of the references made to them elsewhere, notably in World Trade Organisation agreements on sanitary and phytosanitary measures and on technical barriers to trade.

The Government's view

20.3  In her Explanatory Memorandum of 5 July 2001, the Parliamentary Under- Secretary of State for Health (Ms Yvette Cooper) says that, if Community membership is agreed, it would result in the Commission speaking and voting on behalf of the Community on all issues of exclusive Community competence arising in Codex. Similarly, the Commission would also speak and vote on issues of mixed competence where the preponderance of competence lay with the Community (though Member States would also be able to intervene after due coordination) to support and develop the Community line. Member States would be able to speak and vote on issues of mixed competence where the preponderance of competence lay with them, as well as on issues within areas of exclusive Member State competence.

20.4  The Minister also says that, whilst consultation with interested parties is being prepared, informal discussions have indicated that consumer groups have some concerns that Community membership of Codex may result in the consumer voice having less influence.


20.5  Although this proposal at first sight appears logical, we would be interested to know whether the Government's formal consultation confirms the fears voiced informally by consumer organisations, and, if so, whether the Government considers these to be justified. Also, it would be helpful to know whether the Minister has any concerns on subsidiarity grounds over the division of competence described in paragraph 20.3 above. In the meantime, we are not clearing the document.

38   (20875) 5761/00; see HC 23-x (1999-2000), paragraph 2 (1 March 2000). Back

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Prepared 30 July 2001