UN researchers examine chlorine use in food manufacturing
standards controlling the use of active chlorine in
food production and processing.
The project's recommendations will eventually feed into future decisions by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, a UN body charged with setting international food safety standards for member countries. Processors could eventually find themselves under new constraints in how they use the chemical for cleaning in their plants, depending on the outcome of the research. The research is being funded through the Food and Agriculturial Organisation and the World Health Organisation (WHO) at the request of Codex. The project will consider the risk of chemical residues in products affecting human health, compared to the benefits of using active chlorine to lower the risk of pathogen contamination in foods. "The efficacy of active chlorine treatment needs to be considered, taking into account different treatment scenarios, different chlorine-containing substances and different pathogens and pathogen and food combinations," the WHO stated in announcing the project. "These considerations need to be based on current practices, as well as take into account proposed new practices, including the relevance and feasibility of potential alternative approaches." The term "active chlorine" refers to aqueous solutions of hypochlorous acid and its base, hypochlorite ion, chlorous acid and its base of chlorite ion, chlorine gas or chlorine dioxide. The study may also review chloramine and dichloroisocyanurate if they find it is used widely in the food processing industry. The researchers will also examine the chemical as it is used in the treatment of irrigation water, processing water, food contact surfaces. They will also look at the risk factors when it is used as direct treatment of foods such as fresh produce, seafood and meat. The will also look at how various treatments used in the industry affect nutritional components and whether they lead to a loss in quality. The study will also examine the level of chemical residues in or on the foods after treatment. The Codex Alimentarius is a global body set up by the Food and Agricultural Organisation and the World Health Organisation as a means of getting countries to adopt international food safety standards and other guidelines. The standards are recognised as international benchmarks by one of the multilateral agreements of the UN World Trade Organisation (WTO) and aim to help international food trade by eliminating many of what the body calls "unjustified technical barriers" set up by some countries.