The Codex Alimentarius Commission, jointly run by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization, for food safety, has recently agreed on a new set of regulations -- including the maximum level of melamine in the liquid milk formula for babies -- to protect the health of consumers across the world.
Other measures adopted include new food safety standards on seafood, melons, dried figs, nuts and spices and food labelling.
The Commission has now reduced the maximum limit of melamine to 0.15mg/kg in liquid infant milk.
Two years earlier, it had adopted a maximum melamine level of one mg/kg for powdered infant formula and of 2.5 mg/kg for other foods and animal feed.
Melamine can be lethal at high concentrations and has been used illegally to increase the apparent protein content in food products, including infant formula and milk powder.
Milk tainted with melamine has caused death and illness in infants.
Aflatoxins, a group of mycotoxins produced by moulds, are toxic and known to be carcinogenic.
They can be found in a variety of products such as dried fruits, nuts, spices and cereals at high levels if the produce is not stored properly.
The Commission has now agreed on a safe maximum limit of 10 micrograms/kg.
This limit will be crucial to the export sector of India [ Images ], as the country is a leading exporter of nuts and spices.
The Commission also said an emerging public health issue relates to the increased popularity of pre-cut melon slices. Exposed pulp of the fruit can become a breeding ground for bacteria.
This has been linked to life-threatening salmonella and listeria outbreaks.
In India, water melon slices are widely sold by street vendors across the country, especially in the summer.
The Commission says pre-cut melons should be wrapped or packaged and refrigerated as soon as possible and distributed at temperatures of four degrees Celsius or less.
Cooling and cold-storing was recommended as soon as possible after harvest, while knife blades used for cutting or peeling should be disinfected on a regular basis.
It had also agreed on a set of residue limits for ractopamine, the veterinary drug, in animal tissues. Ractopamine is a growth promoter and also keeps pigs lean.
It has adopted maximum residue limits for the amount of the drug allowed in the tissues of pigs and cattle.
The Commission also adopted a set of preventive hygiene measures aimed at controlling food-borne viruses, especially in seafood items.
Viruses are generally more resistant than bacteria and those transmitted by the faecal-oral route can persist for months in bivalve molluscs, soil, water and sediments.
They can survive freezing, refrigeration, ultraviolet radiation and disinfection but are sensitive to heat.
Common food-borne viral diseases are caused by the hepatitis A virus and norovirus.
The Commission noted the main hazard for the production of molluscs, such as oysters and mussels, was the biological contamination of the waters in which they grow.
It is, therefore, important to ensure the seawater quality of growing areas, the Commission noted.
When there is a likelihood or evidence of viral contamination, closure of the area, destruction of contaminated molluscs and/or heat treatment before consumption of already harvested molluscs are recommended.
The commission sets international food safety and quality standards, to promote safer and more nutritious food for consumers worldwide and ensure fair practices in the food trade.
It has 185 member-countries.