There Water shortage is a reality in many parts of the world, with Honduras’ capital, Tegucigalpa, facing significant challenges. Population growth, industrialization and the expansion of agriculture are depleting water resources, putting the supply of drinking water for many families at risk. There Competition between agriculture, food and urban water supply has become a serious problem: innovative solutions are needed.
There Codex Alimentarius Commissiona body of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), responded to this challenge by introducing new guidelines aimed at promoting more efficient and sustainable use of water in food production and processing.
In the past, Codex recommendations focused onuse of potable or clean water to ensure food safety. However, considering the challenges of accessing and costing drinking water, Codex has developed new guidelines that address the safe sourcing, use and reuse of water throughout the food production chain.
Water: what’s new in the Codex
The most significant innovation of these guidelines is the approach based on “fitness for purpose”. Recognizing that water quality requirements vary depending on the food product and intended use, Codex states that water must be suitable for the specific purpose for which it is used. For example, the water used for growing lettuce intended for raw consumption may differ from that used for cleaning potatoes which will be cooked before consumption.
A key point of these guidelines was the recognition of the importance of considering different sources of water, such as recovered, recycled, recirculated or waste waterevaluating its safety based on its intended use.
The pioneering example
Honduras played a pioneering role in the practical application of these guidelines. In 2022, with the support of Codex, it hosted a workshop involving industry and government from across Latin America. During the event, decision-making tools developed by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Meetings on Microbiological Risk Assessment (JEMRA) were tested to evaluate water sources and determine associated risk levels.
Subsequently, in 2023, the SENASA organized a national workshop to introduce government officials, industry and academia to the guidelines. This workshop promoted a change of perspective, challenging the traditional approach that exclusively promotes the use of drinking water. Mirian Bueno, technical director for food safety at SENASA, noticed a change in attitude after the workshop. Industries, aware of the costs associated with drinking water, are now more inclined to consider water reuse after a thorough risk assessment.
The guidelines are expanding
While the current Codex guidelines focus on fruit and vegetable production, it is expected to extend to the dairy and fisheries sectors next year. This initiative not only promotes food security, but also aims to address growing water scarcity and global disparities in its availability and quality.
The Codex guidelines, although voluntary, offer a valuable tool for countries facing increasing water stress. With the need to manage water sustainably, these guidelines represent an important step forward in finding innovative solutions for water conservation and global food security.