The Step Procedure is the procedural way of setting standards, guidelines, and codes of practice for the Codex Alimentarius. It covers the different activities and moments that are to be followed, when a new standard is proposed or an existing standard to be updated. As can be seen in the graphical representation of the step procedure provided by FAO (also shown below) the process start with a discussion paper, followed by a project document. Then a draft text is circulated for comments of Members and Observers, and after various amendments in its Committee the draft is forwarded to the CAC for adoption. Each Step has its number from 1 to 8; so these numbers provide the possibility to know the status of each document.
Looking into the Step Procedure and being aware of the fact that meetings in the Committee are usually held every one to two years, it can be understood that the period between the first paper and the final standard can span many years. This conclusion is often being used by critics of the Codex Alimentarius, saying that the standard setting process in Codex is slow and tedious. This might be true for some proposals, but the Step Procedure can also follow an "accelerated" procedure, making the process substantially shorter. E.g. the standard for melamine in food and infant formula was finalized in two meetings in two years.