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Implications of private standards in international trade of animals and animal products

At the 76thGeneral Session (25-30 May 2008), the International Committee of the OIE discussed the problem of animal health and animal welfare standards established unilaterally by private companies without direct involvement of governments. Noting that OIE Members are concerned at the potential for such private standards to conflict with the official standards established by the OIE, Members passed a Resolution calling for action to address this issue (see Resolution and Technical Item No.2).

In June 2009 an expert ad hoc Group on private standards for sanitary safety and animal welfare was convened to examine the current and possible future problems and benefits presented by private standards for sanitary safety and animal welfare in regard to international trade. This ad hoc Group developed a questionnaire that was sent to all OIE Members and to relevant organizations having an official agreement with the OIE. The results of the questionnaire were discussed at the November 2009 meeting of the ad hoc Group. The report of this meeting, together with the complete report on the responses to the questionnaire was presented to the Terrestrial Animal Code Commission at its meeting in February 2010. The report on the results of the questionnaire showed the significant differences between the views of developed and developing countries on the issue of private standards. The results also confirmed the different attitude of OIE Members towards private standards for sanitary safety and private standards for animal welfare. The Executive Summary of the report may be viewed (here).

In February 2010 the OIE convened a meeting with global private standard setting organizations, including Globalgap and GFSI. It was agreed that the basis for private standards on sanitary safety are the existing international standards of OIE and Codex Alimentarius, as well as national and regional legislation. However, the situation with animal welfare standards is less clear. The importance of encouraging countries to implement the OIE animal welfare standards and of promoting consumer confidence in these standards was discussed. The possibilities for future collaboration between the OIE, Globalgap and GFSI were also discussed and welcomed, bearing in mind the need for the OIE World Assembly of Delegates to approve any proposal for an official agreement.

Update – 78th OIE General Session 23–28 May 2010

A presentation on ‘The private sector’s point of view on the use of public and private standards’ was one of the technical items presented at the General Session 2010. The presntation was made by the not-for-profit coalition for the Supply of Safe Affordable Food Everywhere (SSAFE), which has an official agreement with the OIE. The presentaion may be viewed (here). The subsequent Resolution passed by the World Assembly of Delegates called, inter alia, for the OIE maintain and strengthen appropriate links and dialogue with relevant global private standard setting bodies and global private industry organisations with the aim to allow compatibility of private standards with OIE standards while ensuring communications with national governments and consumers. This Resolution may be viewed (here).

On 10 September 2010 the OIE hosted a meeting with selected private standard setting organisations with a global scope to follow up the recommendations of the February meeting and explore the possibilities of agreements between the OIE and GlobalGAP and between OIE and GFSI. The official procedures of the OIE must be followed in order to sign  an agreement. First, the OIE Council should be consulted. The World Assembly of OIE Delegates should then be asked to endorse the agreement. The OIE will continue to consider the development of official agreements, starting with GlobalGAP and GFSI. The report of the 10 September meeting can be viewed here.