Codex Alimentarius is a series of international standards for food and agricultural products. They help ensure fair trade and consumer protection internationally.
Agreed standards are voluntary, implementation by member countries is not necessarily automatic. However, Codex standards are recognized as reference texts for trade disputes brought before a World Trade Organization (WTO) Disputes panel.
Codex is jointly sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) and comprises of more than 185 countries and 1 member organization (The European Union) . Non-governmental organizations, such as consumer, academic or industry bodies, may attend Codex meetings as observers.
The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is the lead UK Government Department for Codex. However, the Food Standards Agency takes the lead in a number of the vertical committees dealing with, e.g. food hygiene, food additives, food contaminants.