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A new fund has been launched by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Health Organisation (WHO) to help developing countries improve their food standards.

The US$40 million trust fund — details of which were announced today in Geneva — will enable developing and transitional nations to participate more fully in the international body that sets food standards, the Codex Alimentarius Commission. The Codex was set up 40 years ago by the FAO and WHO to set food standards that protect the health of consumers and ensure fair practices in food trade.

The need for such a fund has been highlighted by an official evaluation of the Codex published last November. This found that although more than 120 low- and middle-income countries are members of the body (and will qualify for the funding), severe budget constraints prevent them from properly engaging in the Codex process.

"Due to limited resources, governments in developing countries cannot always give Codex activities the high priority they deserve," Jacques Diouf, director-general of the FAO said in video message. "All countries, especially the developing countries, need to be fully involved in the international debate and in drawing up policy guidance on food safety and trade."

As well as providing money for developing-country representatives to attend Codex meetings, the fund aims to strengthen the capacity of poorer nations to design and implement food safety and quality controls.

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