Article XX of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) allows governments to enact trade measures to protect human, animal, or plant life or health, provided that the provisions do not discriminate and are not used as disguised protectionism. In addition, two specific World Trade Organization agreements deal with food safety, animal and plant health and safety, and product standards in general.

The WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the SPS Agreement) lays out the basic rules on food safety and on animal and plant health standards. It allows countries to set their own standards, but it stipulates that regulations must be based on science and should be applied only to the extent necessary to protect human, animal, or plant life or health.

Furthermore, such regulations should not arbitrarily or unjustifiably discriminate between countries where identical or similar conditions prevail. Member countries are encouraged to use international standards, guidelines, and recommendations where these exist. When this practice is followed, the measures are unlikely to be challenged legally in a WTO dispute. The SPS Agreement includes provisions on control, inspection, and approval procedures. Governments must provide advance notice of new or changed sanitary and phytosanitary regulations and establish a national enquiry point to provide information. The WTO refers to the Codex Alimentarius Commission Sanitary and Phytosanitary practice codes in the SPS Agreement for member country food safety purposes.

The TBT Agreement seeks to ensure that technical regulations, standards, and testing and certification procedures do not create unnecessary obstacles. The agreement does recognize countries’ rights to adopt the standards they consider appropriate—for example, to protect human, animal, or plant life or health; to safeguard the environment; or to meet other consumer interests. In any case, whatever regulations countries use should not discriminate. Under the agreement, the procedures used to decide whether a product conforms with relevant standards have to be fair and equitable, and any methods that would give domestically produced goods an unfair advantage are discouraged.

Manufacturers and exporters need to know what the latest standards are in their prospective markets. To ensure that this information is made available conveniently, all WTO member governments are required to establish national enquiry points and to keep each other informed through the WTO. The Technical Barriers to Trade Committee is the main clearinghouse for sharing information among members and the primary forum for discussing concerns about the regulations and their implementation

National Codex Contact Point

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, (Ministry of Health and Family Welfare) is the National Codex Contact Point for liaison with the Codex Alimentarius Commission and to coordinate Codex activities in India.

Deputy Director & Liaison Officer
National Codex Contact Point
Food Safety and Standards Authority of India
(Ministry of Health and Family Welfare)
FDA Bhawan, Kotla Road,
New Delhi – 110002,
Tel: +91-11-23230997
Email: codex-india@nic.in