New Codex is tool for ethical practice, says USP

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food

Food manufacturers aspiring to ethically sound practices should seek ingredient quality assurance, says US Pharmacopeia, the standards-setting authority behind the Food Chemicals Codex (FCC).

The FCC is a compendium of ingredient monographs and tests to ensure the quality, purity and safety of more than 1,100 food ingredients. US Pharmacopeia (USP), the non-governmental, non-profit authority responsible for setting those standards, has published the seventh edition of the FCC today, including about 170 new and updated ingredient monographs.

The revised FCC reflects advances in analytical technology, as well as innovation in functional foods and new standards for ingredients like tropical fruit extracts and stevia. Executives at USP told that especially since the melamine contamination of Chinese milk powder in 2008, the standards are as much about ethical food production as they are about quality.

Director of food standards at USP Markus Lipp said: “Ethical manufacturers are very much concerned with the safety and quality of their foods, as are the regulators. But in the absence of clear and strong regulatory oversight and strong enforcement there will always be the temptation to adulterate products. That seems to be the case, as incredible as that may seem…It seems to be a natural impulse of people to trap a personal benefit.”

The certifier’s vice president of food, dietary supplement and excipient standards Jim Griffiths added: “Every year more of the big ethical global players are finding ways to include quality assurances.”

He said that consumers and manufacturers alike are becoming increasingly engaged with ethical issues, such as carbon footprints and fair trade sourcing.

“I would like to think that quality of food ingredients should be part of that messaging,”​ he said.

Many of the standards in the latest edition of the FCC presented USP with their own particular challenges, as ingredient companies continue to innovate.


Setting the standard for stevia, for example – and more specifically the high-intensity sweetening component Reb A – provided difficulties, due to the fact that it is a natural product, and there is therefore some variability in the raw material. It also contains many different sweet components, including Reb A and other steviol glycosides, and as demand soared, it was important to ensure that companies, and ultimately consumers, were buying a non-adulterated product.

“That’s the intersection where the FCC can contribute to the safety of the supply chain,”​ Lipp said. “Consumers expect safe food and a certain quality of the food, and they certainly expect not to be tricked or cheated that a food is something when it’s actually something else.

“…It’s always the same problem: [manufacturers] have to find their raw materials for a good price and they have to maintain the quality because in the end their brand name is connected to the quality of their food.”

Innovation leads

USP’s standard-setting is a collaborative process, involving food manufacturers, the government, academia, and consumer organizations, to ensure consistent quality standards between suppliers and manufacturers as new ingredients come onto the market.

Griffiths said: “We are starting to explore lots more functional extracts, probiotics, extracts from fruit and vegetables. We see a lot of designer fatty acids. There’s a lot of innovation going on at all levels of food technology, whether that’s nano, GMO or fruit and vegetables from the Amazon.”

Lipp added: “Ultimately in our market-driven society the consumer has the final say over what they buy. Consumers have the power to make a brand live or die.”

The FCC is updated every two years and supplements are published about every six months.

Related topics Regulation GMPs, QA & QC

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