World Food Day is organized every year on 16 October by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN), which participates in the work of 24 ISO standards-developing technical committees or subcommittees and follows the work of another 16.

With an estimated increase of 105 million hungry people in 2009, there are now 1.02 billion malnourished people in the world, meaning that almost one sixth of all humanity is suffering from hunger. ISO standards support the FAO by helping to promote the transfer of technologies to the developing world, encouraging economic and technical cooperation among developed and developing countries contributing to sufficient, safe and nutritious food.

Of the hundreds of ISO food-related standards, the ISO 22000 series deals directly with food safety:

  • ISO 22000:2005 gives the requirements for food safety management systems. At the end of 2007, it was implemented by over 4 000 organizations in 93 countries
  • ISO/TS 22003:2007 defines the rules applicable for the audit and certification of a food safety management system and provides the necessary information and confidence to customers about the way certification of their suppliers has been granted
  • ISO 22005:2007 establishes the principles and requirements for the design and implementation of a feed and food traceability system, ensuring the security of food products for consumers.

Also relevant to this year's World Food Day is the ISO 28000 series which specifies the requirements for a security management system to ensure safety in the supply chain. These standards can be applied by organizations of all sizes involved in manufacturing, service, storage or transportation by air, rail, road and sea at any stage of the production or supply process.

Several ISO technical committees are involved in the development of International Standards for food. The main focus is ISO/TC 34, Food products, which has developed 748 standards and related documents.

Fifty countries participate in the work of ISO/TC 34 and another 57 have observer status. The main stakeholders directly concerned by its work are agricultural producers, food manufacturers, laboratories, merchants/retailers, consumers and regulators.

Recent developments within ISO/TC 34 are:

  • A future document, ISO/CD 14470, Food irradiation - Requirements for the development, validation and routine control of the ionizing radiation process used for the treatment of food for human consumption
  • A future document ISO/DIS 26642 on Food products - Determination of the glycemic index (GI) and relevant classification
  • A new working group ISO/WD 12824 on Royal jelly.

In addition, ISO/TC 34 works with the International Dairy Federation (IDF) to prepare analytical methods that are published jointly.

Other food-related standards are developed by:

ISO/TC 93, Starch, is in charge of standardization of terminology, methods of sampling, methods of analysis and examination of starch and its by-products. The committee has developed published 26 standards and nine countries participate in its work, while another 31 have observer status.

ISO/TC 54, Essential oils, standardizes methods of analysis and specifications for essential oils and has developed 126 standards. Fifteen countries participate in the work and another 33 have observer status.

The recently created ISO/TC 234, Fisheries and aquaculture, is currently developing two standards on traceability of fish products, ISO/CD 12875 and ISO/CD 12877, and another one on environmental monitoring of the seabed impacts from marine finish farms, ISO/WD 12878. Eighteen countries participate in its work and 16 have an observer status.

ISO has a strong partnership with many UN agencies concerned by food issues, including the FAO, World Health Organization (WHO), FAO)and the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC). ISO's observer status to the CAC provides an opportunity for the coordination of issues related to a variety of ISO standards that are adopted and used by Codex in its work.

More and more International Standards are referenced by regulators to provide a means of compliance with their technical regulations without creating unnecessary technical barriers to trade. This is recommended in the World Trade Organization's Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (WTO TBT) and the WTO Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS), in the context of implementing good regulatory practices. ISO has observer status on both committees. Using ISO International Standards also assists in achieving public health and safety policies at less cost to manufacturers and consumers.