WTO member states will turn to mediation to resolve disagreements over food health standards, avoiding referrals to protracted and sometimes fruitless formal disputes proceedings.

They have agreed to use the chair of the WTO sanitary and phytosanitary measures committee as an honest broker.

This arises from concerns that WTO disputes proceedings are an inefficient way to resolve differences that can seriously restrict food trades.

At a meeting of the committee this week, Chile described the system as: "an alternative to moving to a full-blown dispute".

One possible candidate for future mediation could be India's restrictions on imports of heat-treated foods: exporting countries oppose these claiming such manufacturing kills viruses.