10 May 2019 — Safety and Health

Consensus between the OIV and the Codex on the proposed limits on lead

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During the 13th session of the Codex Committee on Contaminants in Foods (CCCF), the OIV and the Codex Alimentarius have agreed upon proposed limits on lead in wines and fortified/liqueur wines.

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The Scientific Coordinator of the OIV, Jean-Claude Ruf, participated in the 13th CCCF session, which was held on 29 April-3 May 2019 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.

Among the items on the agenda for this session, the delegations from Member States present discussed the revision of the maximum limits on lead in food, in particular for wine.

During the previous session in 2018, the OIV gave a speech indicating that the specific characteristics of certain types of wines should also be taken into account, such as fortified wines (a significant proportion of which would be excluded from international trade if the proposed limit was set at 0.05 mg/kg).

Moreover, following the 2018 meeting, the CCCF decided to re-establish an electronic working group, presided by the United States, to work on the maximum limits (ML) for wine obtained from grapes and fortified wines obtained from grapes harvested after the date of establishment of the ML.

For over a year, the OIV has been revising its own limits on lead

During the 13th CCCF session in 2019, the Committee discussed the recommendations of the working group regarding the maximum lead limits for wines and fortified wines. During its discussions, the OIV drew the CCCF’s attention to the fact that an overly low limit could have significant consequences for international trade. Additionally, Jean-Claude Ruf indicated that the OIV had been undertaking a revision of its own limits on lead for over a year now and that the revised limits would be proposed for final adoption during the next OIV General Assembly in July 2019 in Switzerland. This proposal aims to set the limit at 0.10 mg/L in wines and 0.15 mg/L in liqueur wines.

Finally the OIV encouraged the CCCF to take into account the OIV’s new work on this issue, in order to avoid any duplication or inconsistency in potential limits in the future.

Following the discussions within the CCCF, even though some delegations were in favour of an ML of 0.05 mg/kg for wines, a consensus was reached for an ML of 0.10 mg/kg in wines and a specific limit of 0.15 mg/kg in fortified/liqueur wines. These limits apply to products produced after the date of establishment of the ML. These proposals will be submitted for adoption by the Codex Alimentarius Commission in July 2019.

Consistency in standards and in international trade

The fact that the OIV and the Codex Alimentarius are adopting the same limits for wines and fortified/liqueur wines is therefore to be applauded, for the consistency of standards and international trade.

Furthermore, the Committee has also agreed to launch new work for 2020 on the revision of the Code of Practice for the Prevention and Reduction of Lead Contamination in Foods (CAC/RCP 56-2004), adopted by the Codex in 2004, in order to integrate methods of reduction of lead levels in food, including in wines.