GOED report

Codex nutrient reference value update

Since 2009, the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED) has spent an increasing amount of time working on Codex issues. Although the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) is not a regulatory body, rather a standard setting body, many countries, particularly in Asia, defer to Codex standards when writing their own regulations.

Earlier this year, GOED first reported on the Codex exercise to establish a combined Nutrient Reference Value (NRV) for eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) omega-3 fatty acids for individuals older than 36 months. An NRV is like a recommended intake and, if adopted by Codex, an NRV for EPA+DHA will provide the basis for nutrition labelling and relevant claims in many countries that rely on Codex for guidance.

In our initial report, we communicated that a proposal for new work to establish a combined NRV for EPA and DHA had been approved at the 36th session of the Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses (CCNFSDU). Since that report, much progress has been made.

In July, with an unprecedented lack of objections from any country or non-governmental organisation (NGO), the CAC, the highest decision making body in Codex, endorsed the proposal for new work to establish an NRV for EPA+DHA. Although such an endorsement typically results in the commencement of work on a given project, work on the NRV for EPA+DHA had already begun shortly after the CCNFSDU approved the proposal for new work.

In April, Chile and Russia, co-chairs of the electronic working group (eWG) tasked with assessing the scientific evidence and making recommendations to establish an NRV for EPA+DHA, distributed the first consultation paper for review and comment. The consultation provided background information on the project, as well as asking questions related to the strength of the evidence and potential public health impact.

In July, Chile and Russia distributed the second consultation paper for review and comment. This consultation reviewed the eWG members’ responses from the first consultation. At this point, all but two countries are generally in favour of establishing an NRV for EPA+DHA. Despite minor objections, the overall recommendation of the second consultation sent to the eWG is to establish an NRV for EPA+DHA of 250mg/day. This would align with recommended intakes set by the European Union, China, and the World Health Organization.

Input received in response to the second consultation will form the basis of the eWG recommendations to be presented for discussion at the 37th Session of the CCNFSDU in November 2015. Depending on the recommendation from the eWG, there is a possibility of having an NRV for EPA+DHA adopted at Step 5/8 at the 39th Session of the Codex Alimentarius Commission in the summer of 2016.

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