Sue's Blog

Codex meeting in China feedback


The Food Intolerance Network advised the Australian delegation of a serious emerging issue for consumers ahead of the international food regulatory meeting held in China in April 2024. Codex Alimentarius is an FAO/WHO organisation meant to protect health and promote trade.

We told them yet again that the food industry was responding to regulation by hiding the additives. Industry increasingly hides them as INGREDIENTS under their Clean Label strategy, denying consumers choice and evading checks of levels of additives being used.

So what happened at the Codex meeting in China besides besides too many acronyms and chats about pandas and giant Buddhas? At a zoom debrief, my view was: not that much for consumers.

Titanium dioxide (white colour 171) was banned in EU in 2022, but reviews since in UK, Canada and by JECFA ( Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives) say the acceptable daily intake (ADI) as “not specified”, established in 1969, stands and it remains legal in Australia/NZ. CAUTION - more and

Rosemary extract (antioxidant 392) had more studies requested in 2021 by JECFA due to “effects on rodent pup thyroid hormone levels” with deadline of December 2021 “or its ADI will be withdrawn”. Still lost in the swamp, while Australia/NZ are extending the range of foods in which it is used. CAUTION - more

Natmycin 235 and nisin 234 are antibiotics used in many foods, particularly in cheese in Australia. Russia has been seeking action since 2016 to stop spread of antibiotic resistance to the gut microbiota and “speeding up virulence and pathogenic potential of microorganisms which cause food borne illnesses” through use of these additives. Again, no action by anybody. It is interesting that of all submissions made, it was Russia who consistently said “do not support” or said “premature to approve” about many food additive proposals. But if even Russia can’t move the needle, we do wonder why the Network bothers trying. CAUTION – more

Dimethyl dicarbonate (preservative in liquids 242) is shown on labels in about 50% of countries to allow consumer choice, but in Australia/NZ has been re-classified as a Processing Aid and so does not appear on labels. It may be in your food, for instance. Who knows?

Propylene glycol (carrier for flavours and/or colours, emulsifier, glazing agent and humectant; widespread including in cosmetics 1540) appears in the Food Standards Code as a Processing Aid in Australia/NZ and so does not appear on labels, although it is regulated as an additive in Codex. It has just been put on the JECFA priority list for a further safety assessment. It appears that if the food industry wants these hidden, FSANZ is happy to oblige – more on last assessment 2018


This is the warning black hexagon being widely used with excellent effect in South American countries to reduce ultra-processed food use.

But the word “ultra-processed” did not appear anywhere in the 196 page report from the Codex meeting, despite it being a critical current issue and that additives will prove to be part of the causes of the many illnesses now shown to be exacerbated by ultra-processed foods – more

There is a fascinating article ‘Deny, denounce, delay’: the battle over the risk of ultra-processed foods at After 15 years, the food industry is employing tobacco industry tactics against consumers:

  • food and soft-drink companies in the US now spend twice as much on lobbying politicians as tobacco and alcohol industries combined
  • head of US Consumer Brands Association says “the industry views itself as incredibly transparent. There is extensive disclosure about ingredients on packaging”!
  • a review of conflicts of interest in UK food regulation showed that 9 of 15 members of the UK peak advisory committee on nutrition had received funding from the UPF industry; in the USA 9 of 20 members of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has such conflicts
  • about 40% of the Australian diet now comes from UPFs and rising. Australia is ranked 5th in the world.

Regulators appear to be caught up in process and are missing the larger picture, to the continuing detriment of consumers.

You can see the meeting details and report here (at the bottom) if you are a masochist