Former WHO official urges takeover of Codex

As reported in Food Chemical News by Stephen Clapp (

Gerald Moy, a newly retired UN World Health Organization official who says he’s now free to speak his mind, last week urged a takeover of the Codex Alimentarius by WHO as part of an effort to strengthen global food protection.

“The world needs an international food safety agency,” Moy told the annual winter meeting in Washington, D.C., of the Toxicology Forum, an organization of high-level scientists. “By and large, food standards work in Codex is finished, but the food safety work is ongoing.”

Comparing the proposed new international agency to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), Moy said it could be easily established under WHO rules with its own governing council and budget. The agency would exercise farm-to-fork oversight and hire a staff capable of multidisciplinary risk assessment. He said the new agency would provide risk assessment advice to individual governments and Codex, and would review risk assessment methodologies.

Established in 1963, the Codex Alimentarius Commission is an intergovernmental food standard-setting body with more than 170 member countries; it is jointly sponsored by WHO and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Moy said the proposed international food safety agency would take over the Codex secretariat, which is currently housed at FAO headquarters in Rome, and would liaise with FAO, WHO and other international bodies.

A questioner noted that Codex members complain about inadequate contributions from WHO to the Codex budget, which is mainly funded by FAO. “FAO is highly inefficient,” Moy responded. “WHO would do a much better job.

“The real future of Codex is in the health-oriented committees,” he continued, adding, “WHO is much more efficient. For example, we’d like to outsource translations. We’re ready to take over the health and safety aspects of Codex and provide a counterpart to organizations in other countries [such as EFSA].”

In opening remarks, Moy described the global food safety arena as “fragmented,” with WHO and FAO as the biggest players. “FAO has no health mandate and declining resources,” he said. “That leaves WHO.”

He acknowledged that WHO has a problem with food safety, because the agency mainly focuses on major diseases such as AIDS. “It’s hard to make food safety a priority,” he said, joking that WHO officials “don’t put people in jail” for food safety violations. However, the agency’s strengths include a mandate for standard-setting and a high degree of decentralization, he added.