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Important outcomes from Codex meeting on nutrition and foods for special diets

Date: December 20, 2019
Insights type: Blog
Subject Area: Food Standards, Methods of Analysis & Sampling, Nutrition & Health, Standards
Categories: Blog

On 24-29 November 2019, the 41st session of the Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses was held in Dusseldorf, Germany.

The meeting aimed to study specific nutritional problems and advise on general nutrition issues; to draft general provisions concerning the nutritional aspects of all foods; to develop standards and guidelines for foods for special dietary uses, and to debate provisions on nutritional aspects proposed for inclusion in Codex standards, guidelines and related texts.

As in previous years, the agenda for the 2019 session included several items of relevance for the dairy sector, including:

  • Risk management of all trans-fatty acids (TFAs)
  • Potential development of harmonized probiotic guidelines
  • Potential development of general guidelines to establish nutrient profiles
  • Role of dairy proteins to provide high quality proteins in ready-to-use therapeutic foods.


Within IDF, work has been ongoing since the previous CCNFSDU session in 2018 to develop IDF positions on topics of importance for the dairy sector, and IDF submitted various position statements which are available to download from the Codex website.


Holistic approach to defining protein

Proteins are essential in every part of life. They are a source of essential amino acids, which are the essential building blocks for in vivo protein synthesis. However, considering proteins only as a source of essential amino acids is reductionistic and applies only to storage proteins. Most proteins, as well as peptides derived therefrom, also have many other biologically important functions, e.g., as antibodies, enzymes, carrier of nutrients or as hormonal proteins. A holistic approach to protein is therefore required.


IDF delegation at Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses


IDF has been working to highlight the importance of a holistic view when defining protein. Nitrogen to protein conversion factor is the routine way around the world to quantify the amount of protein in foods. At CCNFSDU, a side event on the nitrogen conversion factor report was organized in the margin of plenary meeting to provide further explanation on the recently published FAO/WHO report. There IDF provided scientific evidence to demonstrate that post-translational modifications have functional and biological functions and therefore should be considered.

Further information is available in this IDF position. The decision on the setting of the factor has been delayed till next year’s meeting, where IDF will continue to raise awareness of the need for a holistic view when defining protein.

Proposed draft Claim for “free” of Trans Fatty Acids

Trans fatty acids (TFA) are a specific type of unsaturated fatty acids. There are two dietary sources of TFA. Industrially produced TFA are formed during the hardening process, called partial hydrogenation of vegetable oils. They are found in various products including spreads, baked goods, fried food and frying fats. Naturally occurring TFA – also referred to as ruminant TFA (rTFA) – are produced by ruminants such as cows and are therefore naturally present in ruminant meat (e.g. beef and lamb) and milk. In dairy products, natural TFA are part of the milk fat.

Dairy foods (which contain inherent levels of rTFA) play a key role in human nutrition, especially in childhood (FAO, 2013). It is important to differentiate ruminant TFA with industrially-produced TFA. Recommending in policies the virtual elimination of all TFAs without differentiation between the types of TFA will potentially lead to poorer diets. This may result in discouraging consumers from eating dairy products. IDF was pleased to note therefore that the committee has chosen to stop work on ‘free of’ TFA claim, to which IDF had been a strong opponent since its inception.

Going forward, IDF will continue to point out that any risk management options related to trans fatty acids should be considered in the context of reduction of industrially produced trans fatty acids.

Proposed draft guidelines for ready-to-use therapeutic foods

Ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) are energy dense, micronutrient enhanced foods used in therapeutic feeding for children with severe acute malnutrition. Codex is developing these guidelines to ensure the highest standards are met when these products are formulated. The guidelines retain the reference to milk products, based on the strong science behind this and is progressed to step 5. In addition, the protein quality evaluation can be based on fecal and ileal digestibility, which could allow DIAAS (Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score, a protein quality method), to be used when the methodology is further developed.

New work

Future work of the committee will be to develop nutrient profiles to support the CCFL work on Front-of pack labelling, and potentially develop harmonized definition of probiotics.

Nutrient profile models in their most simplistic form have the tendency to reduce a food to its individual (and mostly ‘negative’) nutrients, without taking into account the overall nutritional content of the individual food. IDF will engage in the discussion to ensure that a food’s global contribution to the diet, and the health benefits that come with consuming whole foods is integrated in the concept of these models. Whole foods are not a matrix that we can adjust at will. Their composition is sometimes mainly defined by the raw material meaning by nature itself.

For more information on CCNFSDU and dairy nutrition, please contact Laurence Rycken, IDF Science and Standards Manager.

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