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Frequently asked questions

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Starting a food business - licensing and registration

How do I get a license or register my food business?

FSANZ doesn’t issue licences or register food businesses. We also don’t approve labels or related materials. You should contact your local food enforcement authority. In many cases in Australia and New Zealand local councils are responsible for issuing food business licences and registrations.

If you have a question about importing foods into Australia contact the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

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Importing food

Importing food

The Food Standards Code applies to all food sold in Australia, including imported foods. Parts one and two of the Code (composition and labelling requirements) apply in New Zealand.

FSANZ doesn’t issue licences or permits for imported foods. If you have a question about importing foods into Australia you should contact the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. If you have questions about importing food into New Zealand you should contact the Ministry for Primary Industries.

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Labelling

On a food packaging label can the company details be their postal address (PO Box) instead of a physical address?

The Food Standards Code requires that the business name and address of the supplier in Australia or New Zealand be on the package. The business address means the street address, or a description of the location, of the premises from which the business is being operated.

What is the difference between ‘Use By’ and ‘Best Before’?

‘Use By’ is only used on products where the food should not be consumed after the date specified, for health or safety reasons. Foods must not be sold after the Use By date.

‘Best Before’ dates are used when there is no health or safety reason to consume the food before a certain date. Foods with a ‘Best Before’ date can legally be sold after the best before date as long as they are still fit for human consumption.

Read more about date marking

Do I have to put a barcode on my product?

Barcodes are not covered by the Food Standards Code. Barcodes can be purchased from a number of different providers in Australia and New Zealand. Use your internet search engine to find providers.

Where do I find the criteria for making claims like ‘low fat’, ‘high fibre’, ‘salt reduced’, ‘gluten free’, etc?

Standard 1.2.7 and Schedule 4 set out the claims that can be made on labels or in advertisements about the nutritional content of food (described as nutrition content claims) and about the relationship between a food or a property of a food and a health effect (described as health claims). Standard 1.2.7 and Schedule 4 also describe the conditions under which such claims can be made.

What is lot identification?

A lot is an amount of a food that the manufacturer or producer identifies as having been prepared, or from which foods have been packaged or otherwise separated for sale, under essentially the same conditions, for example:

  1. from a particular preparation or packing unit; and
  2. during a particular time ordinarily not exceeding 24 hours.

The lot identification (which could be a number or other information) is used to track a product in the event of a recall and needs to be able to identify where the food was packed or prepared.

What food allergens have to be declared?

Some food ingredients and substances can cause severe allergic reactions for some people. The ingredients and substances that must be declared are peanuts, tree nuts (e.g. cashews, almonds, and walnuts), crustacea, fish, milk, eggs, sesame, soybeans, wheat and lupins.

Cereals containing gluten (e.g. wheat, oats, barley, rye) need to be declared for people with coeliac disease.

Sulphites must also be declared if added at 10 milligrams or more per kilogram of food.

Read more about allergen labelling.

How are food additives required to be labelled?

Most food additives must be listed in the statement of ingredients by their class name followed by the name of the food additive or the food additive number, for example, Colour (Caramel I) or Colour (150a). Enzymes and most flavourings (or flavour) do not need to be named or identified by a food additive number and can be labelled by their class name only.

A list of food additives including additive names and numbers used for labelling can be found in Schedule 8 of the Code. Food additive class names for labelling are provided in Schedule 7.

Read more about food additive labelling

Can you approve my label?

FSANZ doesn’t approve food labels. Food businesses are required to ensure their label complies with the requirements in the Food Standards Code. Labelling requirements are contained in Part 1.2 of the Food Standards Code. You can find links to the labelling standards on our Food Standards Code web page. If you need further assistance you can contact a food consultant or lawyer for advice on complying with the Code.

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Nutrition information panels

Do I need to put a nutrition information panel (NIP) on my label?

There are some foods that don’t require a nutrition information panel, unless nutrition content or health claims are made, for example:

  • foods sold unpackaged
  • foods sold in small packages (e.g. about the size of a larger chewing gum packet)
  • foods made and packaged at the point of sale (e.g. bread made and sold from a bakery).

Is there a minimum size for nutrition information panels?

No, however the Food Standards Code requires that labels must be legible and prominent so they are distinct from the background, and in English.

How do I get food composition values for a nutrition information panel?

There are a number of ways to obtain food composition values for a nutrition information panel. These include:

  • laboratory analysis of the food
  • the FSANZ Nutrition Panel Calculator
  • other commercial software
  • food composition tables or databases.

Specific requirements for calculating average energy content and carbohydrate and for analysing dietary fibre for nutrition information panels are in Schedule 11 of the Food Standards Code.

The prescribed format for the nutrition information panel is in Schedule 12 of the Food Standards Code.

Nutrition Panel Calculator

FSANZ has a nutrition panel calculator (NPC) on its website to help food businesses create a nutrition information panel.

There are two user guides available for the NPC – A Quick Start Guide and the full Explanatory Notes.

What do I do when the ingredients I use are not in your calculator?

If you are using an ingredient that is likely to contribute to the information for the nutrition panel, there are several things you could do:

  • Try searching for the food under a different name. For example, if you are searching for “chard”, you will not find it, however, you will find silverbeet.
  • You could enter the nutrient information (from the per 100 g/ml column) from the ingredient label as a custom ingredient. If you are entering millilitres, you will need a specific gravity (the NPC provides a list of specific gravities (SG) that may be suitable). If your product is not listed, the Explanatory Notes provide a method for calculating a SG for your product.
  • If the ingredient does not have a nutrition information panel (NIP), you could contact the manufacturer or supplier of the ingredient and ask them to provide the appropriate nutrient values.
  • You could use a substitute ingredient. For example, if you use ‘almond flour’ in your recipe and you cannot find ‘almond flour’ in the NPC, you could use ‘almond, blanched, skin off, no added salt’ as a substitute.
  • You could try to find a nutrient profile from another source, such as a similar branded product, the literature, the Internet or international food composition dataset, etc. You could then enter the nutrient profile as a custom ingredient. Note that you will need to ensure that the nutrient data you use is suitable for the intended purpose. The requirements for the calculation of values for nutrition information panels are in Schedule 11 of the Food Standards Code.

The final decision on how to deal with missing ingredients is yours. If you decide to use a substitute ingredient or nutrient data from another source, you will have to consider the appropriateness of the data and assess whether it meets the requirements of Standard 1.2.8 and Schedule 11.

Where have all my recipes gone?

After you enter a recipe or custom ingredients into the NPC, you must use the ‘Save and close’ button to save a copy of the recipe/ingredient to your browser’s temp file. A message will pop up to let you know this has happened. If you close your browser and come back later and all of your recipes have gone from the “load existing NPC recipe” box on the NPC welcome page, it is likely that you (or someone else) have deleted your browser history (or you have your browser settings set to delete history on exit) or updated your browser or operating system.

We strongly recommend that you use the backup/restore button at the end of every session to ensure you can restore your data should it be lost. If you have done this, you will be able to follow the prompts and select the most recent data file to restore. If you have not made a backup of your data FSANZ cannot recover your recipes or custom ingredients.

How can I add nutrients to an NIP if I am making a health claim or just want to include more information for my customers e.g. calcium, etc.?

The NPC is designed to create a basic NIP. It only includes the six mandatory nutrients (protein, fat, saturated fat, carbohydrate, sugars and sodium) and energy. It does not include or other nutrients. You may find that there is nutrient data for products similar to yours in one of our other datasets, e.g. AUSNUT2011‒13 or NUTTAB2010 that may be suitable and may be representative of your product. You will have to use your own skill, care and judgement to decide if it is suitable for you to use. In the end, you may need to consider having your product analysed by a suitably qualified laboratory.

I make juice/jam/stock/broth, etc. and then strain my product, how do I work out the NIP if I am discarding the pulp/skin/seeds/bones, etc.?

Products are often boiled and then strained after cooking or processing. This results in two sources of weight change (e.g. moisture loss and removal of some or all of the pulp/skin etc). The NPC calculates nutrient values on the assumption that all weight change is a change (loss/gain) in the moisture content.. The NPC contains a number of existing nutrient profiles for jams and juices, which may be suitable for you to use for your product. You could also consider searching FSANZ or international datasets for similar product that may represent the nutrient profile for your product. Due to the wide variety of techniques used in the manufacturing process for these products it is not possible to provide advice on how you can calculate an NIP using the NPC. You may need to consider having your product analysed by a suitably qualified laboratory.

Stock (‘Bone broth’): Some people use the term ‘bone broth’ to mean ‘stock’. Stock is a flavoured liquid generally made with beef bones or chicken carcasses/bones, vegetables and flavourings such as bay leaves, peppercorns, parsley stalks, etc. and water before boiling, simmering, skimming and straining the flavoured liquid. Many people ask why we do not have bones as an ingredient in the NPC. A nutrient profile for bones and carcasses is not included in the NPC because they are not edible. Similarly, the ingredients used to flavour the liquid are discarded; therefore may not make a significant contribution to the nutrient profile of the stock. However, this will depend on how well the product is made, how fine the strainer is and how much of the fat is skimmed off or removed after cooking/processing. We suggest using the nutrient profile for “Stock, liquid, all flavours (except fish), homemade from basic ingredients”, as a substitute ingredient. This is available in the AUSNUT2011-13 dataset (Food ID 10C10559). Access or download AUSNUT2011-13 files.

If you are making a broth that has cooked vegetables and/or meat (e.g. chicken) added back to it or that are not removed after cooking, you can add the amounts of these as ingredients to your stock recipe (e.g. chicken, whole, lean, stewed or braised).

Will the NPC produce a label that is compliant with the standards and can I send it to FSANZ to check?

FSANZ can’t approve food labels or NIPs (see 'Can you approve my label?'). The NPC calculates the average nutrient values for the six mandatory nutrients and energy based on the ingredients you choose, the custom data you enter, the weight change from processing and the serve size you choose. The prescribed format for an NIP is provided in Schedule 12 of the Food Standards Code.

In relation to compliance you may wish to consult a food lawyer or consultant.

Why isn’t the NPC service available?

Occasionally the NPC server may have to be shut down and restarted. When this occurs, the NPC may be unavailable for a short time. However, if the server shuts down or requires restarting over the weekend, it may not happen until the next business day. During business hours, we suggest you close your browser, wait an hour and try again. If the service is still unavailable, please feel free to send an email to npc@foodstandards.gov.au alerting us to the issue. We will investigate and let you know when the service is or will be back up.

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Additives

What food additives can be used in Australian and New Zealand food products?

Standard 1.3.1 regulates the permissions for food additives. Foods by category type are set out in:

How are additives assessed for safety?

FSANZ’s safety assessment process follows an internationally accepted model involving a hazard (safety) assessment of the chemical, a dietary exposure (consumption levels) assessment and consideration of risk management options.

Food additives are approved only if it can be shown no harmful effects are likely to result from their use.

To assess their safety, extensive testing of food additives is required, including animal studies and human studies if they are available . Animal studies are designed to determine whether a substance can cause any adverse effects. They are usually conducted using very high concentrations in the diet—far greater than the level people are likely to consume if the substance was present in food. An uncertainty or safety factor is then applied to establish an acceptable daily intake (ADI). The ADI is then used to determine if maximum permitted levels are needed in the Code. Read more about food additives

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Changing the Food Standards Code

How can I change the Food Standards Code?

Anyone can apply to change the Food Standards Code whether they are an individual, organisation or company (from Australia, New Zealand or any other country).

Before making an application, you should first determine whether the food product you wish to supply currently complies with the regulatory requirements in the Code.

Read more about changing the Code

What is happening with current applications and proposals?

You can find details about the applications and proposals we are working on (including what stage they are up to) by reading our work plan. You can also sign up to our notification circular.

Where can I find the Food Standards Code?

You can find all parts of the Food Standards Code on our website. The links on this page take you to the authoritative versions of the standards and schedules on the Federal Register of Legislation website.

Under an inter-Governmental Agreement between the Commonwealth and states and territories, the states and territories adopt, without variation, food standards once they have been gazetted. Gazettal occurs after FSANZ decisions on standards are considered by the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation.

On 1 July 1996, an agreement to establish a joint food setting system between Australia and New Zealand came into force. The joint arrangement aims to harmonise food standards between the two countries; reducing compliance costs for industry and helping to remove regulatory barriers to trade in food.

The agreement does not cover some areas of food regulation, such as maximum residue limits, food hygiene provisions and export requirements relating to third country trade. It also contains provisions which allow New Zealand to opt out of a joint standard for exceptional reasons relating to health, safety, environmental concerns or cultural issues. In such cases, FSANZ may be asked to prepare a variation to a standard to apply only in Australia.

The standards in the Food Standards Code are legislative instruments under the Legislation Act 2003.

Read more about food laws, treaties and agreements

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Chemicals in food

What chemicals can we use when growing our food?

Food Standards Australia New Zealand does not regulate the use of agricultural and veterinary chemicals in Australia. The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Authority (APVMA) or state and territory agriculture and environment departments regulate the use of agricultural and veterinary chemicals.

Standard 1.4.2 and schedule 20 and schedule 21 of the Code set out the maximum residue limits for agricultural and veterinary chemicals that are permitted to remain in the food post-production.

In New Zealand the use of agricultural and veterinary chemicals is managed by the Ministry for Primary Industries.

Are there contaminant levels (e.g. for chemicals like arsenic and mercury) in the Code?

Yes. The maximum levels for contaminants and natural toxicants in foods are in Schedule 19 of the Food Standards Code.

Does anyone check what chemicals are in food?

FSANZ and other Australian and New Zealand government agencies continuously monitor the food supply to ensure it is safe, and that foods comply with standards for microbiological contaminants, pesticide residue limits and chemical contamination. FSANZ also monitors nutrients in the Australian food supply, compiling the results in databases like NUTTAB available to the public.

Read more about how food is monitored

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Food composition

I am doing an assignment and I need to know how much of a certain nutrient is in a specific food. Where can I get this information from?

FSANZ has several food composition and single nutrient datasets. The two main ones are NUTTAB2010, which contains nutrient data for 2668 foods available in Australia and up to 245 nutrients per food, and AUSNTU2011‒13, which contains 53 nutrient values for 5,740 foods and beverages. Both of these, and nutrient specific datasets, can be accessed or downloaded from the Monitoring nutrients in our food supply page.

I think the values you have in your database are wrong. Where do you get them from or why are they different to what I found on the Internet?

FSANZ’s food composition program collects, generates and publishes high quality Australian reference data on the nutrient composition of foods. There are often valid reasons for differences in values reported in the literature and on the Internet. For example, a different method of analysis may have been used, samples may have been taken from different geographical regions, similar but different samples may have been analysed, etc. Other reasons may be that as new analytical methods are developed lower levels of some nutrients may also be able to be detected, quantified or reported.

FSANZ is in the process of updating the food composition data. New publications will be available in the first quarter of 2018.

My company has some analytical data for some foods. How do I get our data included in your database?

FSANZ welcomes nutrient composition data at any time. To find out more information about how to provide data and what it will be used for, see the call for nutrient data page.

FSANZ has produced a guide —Generating data for FSANZ nutrient datasets— which provides information on designing nutrient analysis programs for submitting nutrient data to FSANZ.

My doctor has told me I can’t eat a certain nutrient/chemical. Do you have a list of all the foods that have this chemical in it and how much of it is in them?

FSANZ has an online searchable dataset that allows you to search nutrient values for single foods or browse all foods that contain a specific nutrient. At this point in time it is not possible to export the results to other software. However, you can copy and paste the search results into your own software.

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Nutrition and nutritive substances

Why doesn’t the Code adopt the 2006 ANZ NRVs?

A consultation paper on the use of the 2006 NRVs as the basis of a revision of the current regulatory NRVs in the Code was released in 2010. A report summarising submitter responses is available here. This work was deferred to await further work by other parts of government on the NHMRC/NZ Ministry of Health NRVs. FSANZ is continuing to monitor this work and is considering using the 2006 NRVs as the basis of a revision of the current regulatory NRVs in the Code.

Read more about nutrient reference values

When can something be used as a nutritive substance?

The Food Standards Code defines when a substance is used as a nutritive substance (see section 1.1.2—12 of Standard 1.1.2,).

Such a substance is added to a food to achieve a nutritional purpose; and is:

  • any substance identified in the Code as one that may be used as a nutritive substance
  • a vitamin or mineral
  • any substance (other than an inulin-type fructan, a galacto-oligosaccharide or a substance normally consumed as a food) that has been concentrated, refined or synthesised to achieve a nutritional purpose when added to a food.

Relevant permissions and controls for the use of nutritive substances are found in various standards in the Code (e.g. see Standards 1.3.2, 2.6.2, 2.9.1, 2.9.2, 2.9.3, 2.9.4, 2.9.5).

How do I get approval to use a nutritive substance?

A food for sale must not contain a substance that is used as a nutritive substance unless expressly permitted in the Code (see subsection 1.1.1—10(6) of Standard 1.1.1).

An application is required to approve the use of a new nutritive substance in the Code, or to change the existing permissions for the use of a nutritive substance. All applications must meet the relevant guidelines set out in the Application Handbook (e.g. see ‘Guideline 3.3.3 – Substances used for a nutritive purpose’).

See ‘how can I change the Food Standards Code’ for more information about making an application.

Is FSANZ reviewing the regulation of nutritive substances?

Yes, FSANZ is currently reviewing the regulation of nutritive substances and novel foods in Proposal P1024.

Read more about this review and novel foods

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