Kava formally recognised as a food

DAILY POST – By Kizzy Kalsakau & Anita Roberts Oct 3, 2020

The Codex Alimentarius Commission, the supreme body that sets food standards globally has approved a standard for kava when mixed with water.

This has been confirmed by Timothy Tumukon, the Regional Coordinator for the Coordinating Committee for North America and South West Pacific (CCNASWP).

It means countries under NASWP such as USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and 10 Pacific Island states including Vanuatu can now trade kava products amongst themselves as a food and beverage.

Kava has long been widely considered as a drug.

The approval of the first ever regional standard is a “a proud moment” for the 14-member countries of NASWP, said Tumukon.

“The other regions have developed standards but we have never done so before,” he said.

“We took so long to convince other member countries, especially the metropolitan members being USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand because for so long kava was considered as a drug.

“We had to research and find data to verify there is potential to consider kava as a beverage when mixed with water.

“In 2016, the committee requested that we develope a standard which was accepted in 2019 before we push it into the Codex Alimentarius.”

He acknowledged all member countries for lending their support and expertise, the scientists and everyone else who provided scientific information along the journey in getting the standard adopted by the commission.

Vanuatu has been taking the leading role in developing the regional standard since 2012 and successfully getting it approved just last week.

Mr Tumukon has been representing Vanuatu at the Regional CCNASWP since 2012.

Vanuatu’s term as the regional coordinator has now ended.

Fiji has been nominated to take up the role starting soon this month.


01. Kava kava root: A Bit of Botany a little botanical information on kava kava root

Kava is a shrub of the Piperaceae family, it is several feet high, its leaves are cordate, acuminate, with very short axillary spikes of flowers, the stem is dichotomous and spotted. Kava rhizome is in whitish or grey-brown roughly wedge-shaped fragments from which the periderm is cut off about 2 inches thick; the transverse section usually shows a dense central pith, surrounded by a clean ring of vascular bundles, narrow and radiating, separated by broadish light-colored medullary rays.

Kava kava root is starchy. It has a faint pleasant odor with a bitter taste. The root is pungent and aromatic.

common names & nomenclature
Piper is Latin for “pepper” and methysticum is (Latinized) Greek for “intoxicating”.

Also known as:
kava, kava kava root, ava, intoxicating pepper, ava pepper, awa, yaqona, sakau


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