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Chapter 1 - Food standards and practices

Strategic imperative

To build and sustain food standards and practices to support high standards of public health protection and a dynamic and sustainable food manufacturing sector.

Highlights 2012–13

  • Gazetted 12 applications and 7 proposals to amend the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code), including requirements for making nutrition and health claims, approvals for four genetically modified foods, extensions to the country of origin standard and approvals to add a number of substances to food and to irradiate persimmons.
  • Prepared documentation for further rounds of public consultation—especially with primary producers—on meat and wild game products and raw (unpasteurised) milk products.
  • Rejected five applications to amend the Code because they did not meet the mandatory information requirements under s. 22(2) of the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991 (FSANZ Act) (Appendix 2).
  • Assigned a category 1 bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) status to the Netherlands and Vanuatu and a category 2 status to Croatia; conducted four in-country verification visits.
  • Resumed work to determine regulatory and non-regulatory measures to reduce the level of dietary exposure to sulphites, particularly for young children.
  • Approved, gazetted or commenced work on a number of variations to the Code involving infant formula products.
  • Commenced a review of microbiological limits in the Code.
  • Undertook a legal review of the Code, with implementation of changes to be completed by July 2014.

Introduction

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) underpins its food standards with the best available scientific evidence. Nowhere is this more important than in the assessment of risk to human health.

This evidence may include unpublished reports, in addition to publicly available papers in scientific journals. Irrespective of the source, and in all cases, we exercise professional judgement about the quality and relevance of the data and information.

We never rely on a single study to guide our risk assessments. Rather, we use a 'weight of evidence' approach that looks at a number of factors, including the design, methodology and duration of individual studies, the appropriateness of the instruments used to measure the variables of interest and the statistical analyses undertaken. New studies are evaluated as they become available, before they are added to the evidence base.

Studies designed and conducted in accordance with the principles and intent of good laboratory practice are accorded a higher weighting, as there is the expectation that they have been conducted with good quality control.

Figure 1 illustrates the relative weighting that FSANZ may give to different sources of evidence, using circle size to denote the weightings.

Figure 1: Sources of evidence used by FSANZ and relative weightings

Figure 1: Sources of evidence used by FSANZ and relative weightings. The relative weightings are (from largest to smallest):   * cochrane review or meta-analysis of available studies and validated studies conducted according to international protocols meeting defined standards with sufficient information to allow independent analysis  * Peer reviewed literature—strongly supported reports, models, theories  * Established biological principles  * Peer-reviewed literature— single report, model, theory  * Expert opinion and technical reports which may include company-generated reports, reports from other food regulatory agencies, non–peer reviewed abstracts, etc.    Other considerations include:  * Australian/New Zealand versus overseas data for exposure estimates and consumer behaviour  * Data on the specific substance or food versus surrogate data from a related substance or similar food  * Anecdotal evidence or unsubstantiated statements are usually not considered.

In estimating the level of risk, we refer to agreed international practices for addressing uncertainty caused by limited or incomplete information. For example, we build in safety (or uncertainty) factors to account for species differences and human variability, and use 90th or 95th percentile dietary exposure levels to represent people who consume high amounts of a substance.

Each risk assessment prepared by FSANZ is internally peer reviewed to ensure conclusions are scientifically robust. We encourage stakeholders to comment on risk assessments via a public consultation process. For more scientifically complex or contentious risk assessments, we may seek external peer reviews of our assessments from national or international experts.

Examples of how we are building a scientific evidence base for emerging issues (e.g. nanotechnology, new plant breeding technologies, antimicrobial resistance) are discussed in Chapter 4 (page 67).

Once the risks are identified and understood, FSANZ considers a range of management options to minimise or eliminate the risks. Considerations taken into account include the agency's risk appetite and risk management options tailored to the likelihood and severity of a potential risk. Details of the risk management process can be found in the FSANZ publication Risk Analysis in Food Regulation.

Summary of food regulatory activity

Applications and proposals gazetted between 1 July 2012 and 30 June 2013

We gazetted (published) 12 variations to food standards (18 in 2012–13) and 7 variations from proposals (4 in 2012–13).

Detailed information on applications and proposals processed in 2012–13 is contained in Appendixes 1 and 2. Information on FSANZ's procedures for assessing applications and proposals can be found at Appendix 3.

Amendments to the FSANZ Application Handbook

Under s. 23 of the FSANZ Act, FSANZ can make guidelines that set out mandatory information and format requirements that applications must include. If these requirements are not met, then, under s. 26 of the FSANZ Act, FSANZ has the power to reject an application after it is lodged with FSANZ. These guidelines are a legislative instrument for the purposes of the Legislative Instruments Act 2003, but are not subject to a sunset clause or disallowance.

We completed most of our work on the next set of amendments to Part 3 of the handbook, including additional requirements on health and nutrition claims.

Food Standards Development Work Plan (work plan)

New assessment procedures for applications and proposals took effect on 1 October 2007. Any proposal prepared or application received from this date onwards is assessed under these procedures. FSANZ can also reject applications if they do not meet the mandatory requirements in Part 3 of the Application Handbook.

Table 1 shows the number of applications, proposals and potential proposals on the FSANZ work plan (received or prepared before 1 October 2007) as at 30 June 2013, in all work plan groups. Table 2 shows the number of work plan applications and proposals received or prepared from 1 October 2007 onwards, as at 30 June 2013. The work plan can be accessed via our website.3

Table 1: Applications and proposals on the work plan (received or prepared before 1 October 2007)

At 30 June 2010
At 30 June 2011
At 30 June 2012
At 30 June 2013
Group 1
7
6
5
5
Group 2
5
5
4
4
Under review
1
1
1
0
Total
13
12
10
9
With the Council of Australian Governments Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation or awaiting notification to the forum
0
0
0
0
Estimated waiting time Group 2
Only 4 applications remain with assessment work to commence—3 are to be considered as part of a proposal on raw milk products
Only 4 applications remain with assessment work to commence—3 are to be considered as part of a proposal on raw milk products
Only 3 applications remain with assessment work to commence—2 are to be considered as part of a proposal on raw milk products
Only 3 applications remain with assessment work to commence—2 are to be considered as part of a proposal on raw milk products
Group 1 is for applications or proposals raising health and safety issues being progressed as a priority or identified by jurisdictions as warranting priority.

Group 2 is for unpaid applications or proposals placed on a three-year rolling work plan scheduled for commencement in order of receipt.

Table 2: Applications and proposals on the work plan (received or prepared from 1 October 2007 onwards)*

At 30 June 2010
At 30 June 2011
At 30 June 2012
At 30 June 2013
General procedure
17
(5 paid)
14
(7 paid)
14
(4 paid)
11
(3 paid)
Minor procedure
0
0
1
0
Major procedure
8
(4 paid)
9
(5 paid)
6
(1 paid)
7
High-level health claims
n/a
n/a
n/a
0
Urgent applications or proposals
1
0
0
0
Under review
0
0
1
1
Total
25
23
22
19
With the Council of Australian Governments Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation or awaiting notification to the forum
4
3
3
2
Estimated waiting time for unpaid applications
9 months

At least 24 months for labelling applications
6 months
Approximately 2 months
Approximately 2 months
* Does not include potential applications and proposals for which an administrative assessment has commenced, but not yet completed, as these have not yet been placed on the work plan, or where the application has been accepted, but was not on the work plan as at 30 June.

Performance of standards development

Table 3: Total applications received and accepted onto the work plan and proposals prepared

2009–10
2010–11
2011–12
2012–13
Applications
21*
9*
11*
6
Proposals
5
2
9
7
Total
26
11
20
13
* Includes any applications received in this year and accepted onto the work plan in the following year.

Table 4: Applications and proposals finalised

2009–10
2010–11
2011–12
2012–13
Final assessments made by the FSANZ Board
2
1
1
0
Approvals made by the FSANZ Board
12
16
19
18
Applications withdrawn or rejected* or removed from the work plan

Proposals abandoned
9
6
3
2
Total completed
23
23
23
20
Applications or proposals gazetted
14
16
22
19
* Includes applications rejected at administrative assessment.

Further details on information in Tables 1–4 can be obtained from Appendix 2. There also may be some discrepancies between Tables 4 and 6, where decisions have been made in one financial year and the notification of that decision was made in the next financial year.

Table 5 provides information about any significant variation from the timetable established in the work plan for the consideration of applications and proposals during 2012–13.

Table 5: Reasons for delays in considering applications and proposals in 2012–13

Application or proposal
Step
Variation
Reason
A1038—Irradiation of Persimmons

(Unpaid)
Gazettal
14 months
Federal Court application
A1039—Low Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) Hemp as a Food

(Unpaid)
Approval
15 months
Public comments on the proposed draft variation raised issues that required additional consideration before a final decision could be made by the FSANZ Board

In particular, we required more information on the potential cost impact on food and law enforcement agencies, the potential for consumption of hemp foods to interfere with saliva THC testing results and whether industry could achieve lower THC levels in hemp foods than the maximum levels proposed by FSANZ
A1055—Short-chain Fructo-oligosaccharides

(Paid)
Assessment, preparation of draft food regulatory measure and call for submissions
20 months
A new Ministerial Policy Guideline for the Regulation of Infant Formula Products expanded the scope and complexity of the assessment. FSANZ took additional time to assess the issues raised and to have regard to the guideline, due to the vulnerability of the target population and stakeholder interest

More time than anticipated was also needed to consult with FSANZ's Infant and Child Health Scientific Advisory Group

There were also 3 requests for further information, which pushed the original due date out by about 7 months
 
 
Approval
2 months
As the call for submissions occurred over Christmas, FSANZ required additional time to receive and then consider submissions received
P1005—Primary Production & Processing Standard for Meat and Meat Products
Preparation of draft food regulatory measure
37 months
Initially on hold while a new proposal on minor species and a first call for submissions were prepared, to enable both proposals to be progressed together
Delayed due to concerns with the potential regulatory gap for animal welfare issues, which are being addressed outside the food regulatory system
P298—Benzoate and Sulphite Permissions in Food
Draft assessment
7 years
Need for updated dietary exposure data and assessments, as well as evaluation of data. Extensive consultations with relevant industry stakeholders have also been required
P1023—Tutin, Tocopherol and Food for Special Medical Purposes Standards Amendments
Assessment
3 weeks
Delay occurred as a result of additional legal considerations resulting in various consequential amendments to the Code

Table 6 shows the status of the applications and proposals received or prepared before 1 October 2007 and that remain on the work plan.

Table 6: Status of remaining applications and proposals received or prepared before 1 October 2007

Application or proposal
Date received
Reason
A530—Permission for English Farmhouse Cheddar made from Raw Milk
12/2/2004
Assessment indefinitely delayed—issues to be considered as part of proposal on raw milk products
A531—Use of Raw Milk in Cheese Production
16/2/2004
Assessment indefinitely delayed—issues to be considered as part of proposal on raw milk products
A576—Labelling of Alcoholic Beverages with a Pregnancy Health Advisory Label
17/2/2006
FSANZ has delayed further assessment following the decision by the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation to accept the recommendation of the Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy, which allows 2 years for industry to adopt voluntary initiatives
A613—Definitions for Nutritive Substance & Nutritive Ingredient
21/8/2007
On hold pending advice from the applicant
P235—Review of Food-type Dietary Supplements
10/5/2001
On hold pending completion of related work
P236—Sports Foods
10/5/2001
On hold pending completion of related work
P274—Labelling Minimum Age for Infant Foods
1/3/2003
Work has recommenced following the release of the National Health and Medical Research Council Dietary Guidelines and Infant Feeding Guidelines
P290—Food Safety Programs for Catering Operations to the General Public
10/2/2004
FSANZ will recommence work on this proposal in the first quarter of 2014 to allow further implementation strategy work required by jurisdictions
P298—Benzoate and Sulphite Permissions in Food
6/6/2005
Reason for delay addressed in Table 5

Review requests by the Council of Australian Governments Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation

A request for a review of a FSANZ decision to amend the Code must be sought by a majority of Food Regulation Forum members—that is, 6 out of 10. More details on the review process, including the criteria, are available in Appendix 3.

Table 7: Notification outcomes

2009–10*
2010–11*
2011–12*
2012–13
Final assessment decisions notified
2
1
1
0
Approval decisions notified
11
15
22
17
Requests for review
1 (8%)
0 (0%)
1 (4%)
1 (6%)
First review decisions notified
3
n/a
n/a
n/a
Requests for second review
0
n/a
n/a
n/a
* Figures in this column may differ from those provided in the previous year's annual report, as review requests may be received by FSANZ after the deadline for publication.

Ministerial policy guidelines

The Australian Government, states, territories and the New Zealand Government are generally represented by their health ministers (as lead ministers) on the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation (Food Regulation Forum). Other ministers from relevant portfolios, such as agriculture, industry or consumer affairs, also participate to ensure a whole-of-government approach to food regulation.

The Food Regulation Forum is responsible for the development of food regulatory policy for domestic and imported foods and the development of policy guidelines for setting food standards for domestic and imported foods.

No guidelines were notified to FSANZ in 2012–13.

Additional work requested by the Food Regulation Forum

No additional work was requested by the Food Regulation Forum.

Standards development

Approval of new substances in, and irradiation of, certain foods

Regulatory milestone 2012–13
Number of applications gazetted: 6

During the year, gazettals included the irradiation of persimmons, extension of use of already permitted food additives and processing aids, amendments to novel food permissions and changes to the residue limits for packaged water.

There were two applications for the irradiation of persimmons, and tomatoes and capsicums, as quarantine measures and as replacement treatment for restricted chemical use. We included a permission to use the preservative ethyl lauroyl arginate in sausages. We extended the use of hydrogen peroxide as a processing aid to control lactic acid microorganisms in the production of specific dairy products. We also removed package volume restrictions for two types of foods permitted to contain added phytosterols. New residue limits were provided for packaged water to align with World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.

In addition, we met regulatory milestones on the following projects:

Genetically modified (GM) foods (Standard 1.5.2)
Regulatory milestone 2012–13
Gazetted the inclusion of 2 GM soy varieties, 1 GM corn variety and 1 GM canola variety into the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code

There are now 57 approvals for GM food listed in the Code, covering 76 lines from 8 different crops (canola, corn, cotton, lucerne, potato, rice, soybean and sugarbeet).

Safety assessments and reports for three applications (herbicide-tolerant cotton, herbicide-tolerant soybean and reduced-lignin lucerne) are currently in preparation.

FSANZ's protocol for conducting safety assessments of GM foods is based on scientific principles developed by bodies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the WHO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Codex Alimentarius Commission. Several papers published in the past year called into question these safety assessment procedures for GM foods, drawing significant comment in the media. We have responded in detail to the issues requiring a credible scientific response on our website. These papers can be found under the consumer section of the site.4

Nutritive substances and novel foods
Regulatory milestone 2012–13
Commencement of a review of the current regulation of nutritive substances and novel foods in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code

In 2012, FSANZ issued a consultation paper asking for comment on the way nutritive substances and novel foods are regulated through the Code. In December 2012, we commenced a proposal to review and analyse the issues raised. This proposal will involve extensive public consultation, beginning with a call-for-submissions report to be released later in 2013. We have considered possible alternative regulatory approaches for nutritive substances and novel foods and have commissioned a study to investigate the costs of bringing a new food to market. The latter will help in assessing the cost impacts of potential approaches and in the preparation of a regulatory impact statement.

Benzoates and sulphites
Regulatory milestone 2012–13
Draft assessment report, containing proposed changes to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, being prepared for consultation

When FSANZ initiated a proposal in 2003 to review benzoate and sulphite levels in foods, it appeared that there was a potential for much of the Australian population to exceed the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for the preservative groups benzoates and sulphites. The ADI is defined internationally as an estimate of the amount in food that can be ingested daily over a lifetime without appreciable risk.

Since then, we have been collecting additional information about consumption patterns of foods containing these preservatives and their concentrations in key foods in both Australia and New Zealand, and commissioned a report on the need for, and use of, sulphites in raw meat sausages.

With this additional information, our conclusion is that there are no exceedances of the ADI for consumers of benzoates or sulphites, except for sulphites for high-consuming children between two and five years of age in Australia and boys between five and twelve years of age in New Zealand. It is also likely that New Zealand children under five years old would also exceed the ADI. Accordingly, we are considering both regulatory and non-regulatory measures to reduce the level of dietary exposure to sulphites, particularly for young children.

Labelling standards

Nutrition and health claims
Regulatory milestone 2012–13
Gazetted Standard 1.2.7 in January 2013

In January 2013, FSANZ gazetted Standard 1.2.7—Nutrition, Health and Related Claims. Food businesses have three years to meet the requirements of the new standard. The standard is the culmination of 10 years of standards development work, involving extensive consultation with expert advisors, key stakeholders and the general public.

This standard regulates the voluntary use of nutrition content claims, health claims and endorsements on food labels and advertisements for food. Nutrition content claims are claims about the content of certain nutrients or substances in a food, while health claims refer to a relationship between a food (or food property) and health. Nutrition content and health claims are required to meet certain criteria set out in the standard.

The new standard ensures that consumers can have confidence that health claims are well supported by scientific evidence. The standard aims to support industry innovation, assist consumers to make informed food choices, reduce the risk of misleading and deceptive claims about food, expand the permitted range of health claims and provide clarity for the jurisdictions enforcing the standard.

Country of origin labelling
Regulatory milestone 2012–13
Extensions to Standard 1.2.11 gazetted in January 2013

In March 2010, the Australian Government asked FSANZ to consider extending country of origin labelling to provide consumers with appropriate information and to remove the inconsistency in applying country of origin labelling across unpackaged meat. FSANZ decided to extend mandatory country of origin labelling to unpackaged beef, sheep and chicken meat. The new requirements for unpackaged meat take effect in July 2013.

Food standards for the primary industries

Meat and meat products
Regulatory milestone 2012–13
Preparation for a round of public consultation in September 2013

We recommenced work on a national primary production and processing standard for meat and meat products, after a delay in 2012 while a potential regulatory gap associated with animal welfare issues was addressed. We intend to consolidate our work on major meat species and minor meat species and wild game for the next round of public consultation.

Horticulture
Regulatory milestone 2012–13
Negotiated a preferred position on maximising the safety of produce in readiness for public consultation

FSANZ continued to examine the most effective ways of maximising the safety of horticultural produce in Australia. In consultation with industry and the regulators in the states and territories, we are developing a preventive and responsive option that builds on existing regulatory and non-regulatory measures. This approach aims to maximise food safety compliance and outcomes in horticultural produce without undue cost to industry, consumers or government.

Raw milk products
Regulatory milestone 2012–13
Preparation for a further round of public consultation on unpasteurised (raw) milk products

The Code allows for the production and sale of hard, cooked curd cheese manufactured without pasteurisation. In 2012–13, we continued to examine the specific production and processing controls needed for additional approved raw milk products to ensure that they will provide an acceptable level of public health risk. Later in 2013, we will conduct another round of public consultation to provide greater detail on the control measures needed and their validation.

Public health

Short-chain fructo-oligosaccharides
Regulatory milestone 2012–13
Approved draft amendments to various standards in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code

This work concerned the addition of short-chain fructo-oligosaccharides, made from sucrose, to infant formula products, infant foods and formulated supplementary foods for young children (toddler milk). It presented a particular challenge to FSANZ as it was one of the first applications to refer to the Ministerial Policy Guideline on the Regulation of Infant Formula Products, which expanded the scope and complexity of the assessment. We took additional time to assess the issues raised because of the vulnerability of infants and young children and stakeholder interest.

We have notified the COAG Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation of our approved change to the Code.

Minimum L-histidine in infant formula products
Regulatory milestone 2012–13
Gazetted amendments to Standard 2.9.1 in May 2013

In 2012–13, a company sought approval to reduce the minimum requirement in the Code for L-histidine in infant formula products from 12 mg/100 kJ to 10 mg/100 kJ. Our assessment supported this change and, in November 2012, we invited public submissions on the draft variation. All eight submitters supported this change to the Code. In May 2013, the Food Regulation Forum upheld FSANZ's decision to approve the company's request, and the Code was subsequently gazetted.

A minimum level of 10 mg/100 kJ is comparable to the L-histidine content of breast milk and is considered adequate to support the growth of formula-fed infants. It also provides consistency between the Code and international and overseas food standards, considering much infant formula is imported.

Infant formula products
Regulatory milestone 2012–13
Conducted preliminary work prior to raising a proposal to amend Standard 2.9.1 in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code

In 2012–13, we undertook various targeted consultation activities with key stakeholders and released a consultation paper for public comment on our review of standards for infant formula products. The consultation paper outlined the regulatory issues identified to date and called for stakeholder views on the scope and issues to be addressed in a future proposal. It covered issues related to composition, labelling, category definitions, and marketing and advertising. A proposal to revise and clarify the standards for infant formula products in the Code will commence in 2013–14.

Food for special medical purposes
Regulatory milestone 2012–13
Amended commencement date for Standard 2.9.5

Standard 2.9.5—Food for Special Medical Purposes (FSMP) was gazetted in June 2012, to commence on 28 June 2014. This two-year notice period was intended to allow time for manufacturers, distributors and others to make any adjustments needed to comply with the standard on the commencement date.

However, FSANZ was then advised by industry that some FSMPs available for import into Australia and New Zealand could comply immediately with Standard 2.9.5 and that their manufacturers would be disadvantaged by the delay. Submissions from a round of public consultation supported an immediate commencement date, which took effect in February 2013. We also included specific transitional arrangements to allow time for other FSMPs to lawfully transition by 28 June 2014.

Food for infants
Regulatory milestone 2012–13
Preparation of public consultation documentation on minimum age labelling of infant foods

At present, the labelling requirements in Standard 2.9.2 do not align with the infant feeding guidelines of Australia or New Zealand, both of which recommend the introduction of solid foods at 'around 6 months'. Some years ago, FSANZ commenced a proposal to review the minimum age labelling of infant foods. We deferred consideration in 2008, when the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) began a review of the Australian infant feeding guidelines. The revised Australian guidelines, released in February 2013, continued the recommendation of the past 10 years to introduce solid foods at 'around 6 months'.

We have therefore recommenced the proposal to consider aligning Standard 2.9.2 with the revised guidelines and will release a public consultation paper later in 2013 to inform the final decision.

Food safety

Listeria
Regulatory milestone 2012–13
Began first stage of review of microbiological limits in the code

FSANZ commenced the first stage of the review of microbiological limits in the Code by raising a proposal to assess microbiological criteria for Listeria monocytogenes in ready-to-eat foods. The review seeks to address a number of problems that have been identified with the current limits for L. monocytogenes in Standard 1.6.1.

Public consultation commenced on this work in September 2012. We will continue to consult with industry and the states and territories on the most appropriate approach to issues raised. In conjunction with proposed amendments to the Code to establish microbiological criteria limits for L. monocytogenes, we intend to develop a package of supporting guidance materials. We expect to initiate a final round of public consultation in early October 2013.

Tutin
Regulatory milestone 2012–13
Further extension of interim maximum level for tutin in honey to March 2015

FSANZ and the Ministry for Primary Industries (New Zealand) have been working collaboratively to improve the scientific basis of a permanent maximum level (ML) in the Code for the toxin, tutin in honey. This potent neurotoxin sometimes appears in honey at levels high enough to cause serious health effects in humans—for example, convulsions. Since 2008, this risk has been controlled by a temporary maximum level in the Code, while further work has been carried out.

Research is under way to identify the nature of the toxin in honey and its distribution and metabolism in humans. We intend to use this information to support an internationally acceptable risk assessment for this toxin and a subsequent regulatory measure in the Code. Interim MLs currently in the Code for tutin in honey and comb honey appear to be providing a measure of protection for human health and safety. We expect to complete a proposal for the introduction of a permanent ML for tutin in honey before the expiry of the interim MLs in March 2015.

Improving our standards development outcomes

Reform of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code

In 2010, FSANZ commissioned the Commonwealth Office of Legislative Drafting and Publishing (OLDP) to undertake a legal review of the Code. The OLDP report identified issues in relation to the Code's enforceability and interpretation, and the consistency of its application across jurisdictions. Consultation with jurisdictions on the OLDP report also raised other issues.

We engaged the Australian Government Solicitor (AGS) to draft a revised Code that addressed the issues identified by the OLDP and jurisdictions. We also established four internal committees to assist and advise the AGS in this process, in the areas of labelling, food safety, product safety and public health nutrition.

The Code's revision will be mainly limited to technical legal changes. It will not result in changes to the effect of the Code, with the possible exception of changes that are essential to achieve the resolution of issues identified in the OLDP review or the related consultation with jurisdictions. Jurisdictions will be consulted by the working group as and when drafting is available for public consultation.

The target date for implementation of a revised Code is 1 July 2014.

Code Interpretation Service

The Code Interpretation Service (CIS) provides interpretive guidance on food standards in chapters 1 and 2 of the Code, and is available to all food industry stakeholders on a fee-for-service basis. In 2012–13, the CIS fielded 10 enquiries, but did not receive any applications for interpretive guidance.

An independent review of the CIS will be commissioned by the Food Regulation Steering Committee in the next financial year. The review will examine CIS operations and consider whether the service is meeting the objectives established under the COAG Intergovernmental Agreement for Food Reforms 2011.

Support for implementing standards

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy

Before a country can export beef and beef products to Australia, FSANZ must conduct a bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) food safety assessment to ensure that these animal-derived products pose no food safety threat to the Australian population. This work is overseen by the Australian BSE Food Safety Assessment Committee, comprising experts on BSE, animal health, food safety and agricultural systems.

In November 2012, FSANZ completed BSE food safety assessments for the Netherlands, the Republic of Croatia and the Republic of Vanuatu. FSANZ assigned the Netherlands and Vanuatu a category 1 BSE risk status and Croatia a category 2 status.

Countries assigned a category 1 or category 2 status by FSANZ are eligible to export beef or beef products to Australia, and their beef products are considered to pose a negligible food safety risk. Certification requirements for each category are different and are implemented by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF).

In 2012–13, FSANZ completed four in-country verification visits—the Republic of Latvia and the Republic of Lithuania (September 2012), the Republic of Chile (March 2013) and the Federative Republic of Brazil (June 2013). For each country, we assessed the effectiveness of BSE control and preventive systems across the beef production chain and visited slaughtering facilities, feedlots, feed mills, border inspection posts and rendering plants.

Mandatory fortification of bread and bread-making flour

Mandatory fortification of bread-making flour with folic acid and mandatory use of iodised salt in bread making were introduced in Australia in late 2009. In 2010, FSANZ conducted its first bread analytical program, the results of which were used to estimate potential changes in dietary iodine and folic acid intakes of the Australian population some 10 months after implementation of the mandatory fortification standard.

A second phase of monitoring was undertaken in 2012, and a third phase of sampling and analysis of breads sold in Australia is currently in progress. We will use the results to model the impact of mandatory bread fortification on the intake of folic acid and iodine for the Australian population in the 3–4-year period after the implementation of the mandatory fortification standard.

Maximum residue levels (MRLs) for low levels of chemicals

The Code regulates the level of chemical residues that are permitted in food. The current approach does not adequately address the unexpected presence of agricultural and veterinary chemicals listed in the Code, but present at very low levels that are safe in an unspecified food (i.e. not listed in the Code), in an efficient and timely manner.

FSANZ is considering an alternative to the current 'zero tolerance' approach to the regulation of agricultural and veterinary chemicals in food and has prepared a proposal to progress this work. The alternative option seeks to provide flexibility in situations of detecting a chemical/food combination without an MRL and enable the food to be sold, providing the relevant authority has determined that it does not pose a risk to public health and safety.

Imported food

FSANZ provides assessment advice to the DAFF Imported Food Program, which then uses this advice to decide on monitoring and control measures at the Australian border. A comprehensive mapping and review of processes, related roles, and the responsibilities of FSANZ and DAFF in relation to imported food was completed in March 2012.

This interagency review took into account the legislative limitations on both agencies. FSANZ and DAFF acknowledged the need for a whole-of-government approach to monitoring and controlling imported foods. Both agencies are committed to continuous improvement in this area. Accordingly, a joint agency implementation plan is being rolled out, which is exploring more efficient ways of operating and improved processes, including how both agencies respond to emerging food safety issues. This work will continue over the next two years.

In 2012–13, we focused on working more closely with DAFF to provide targeted assessment advice on risks associated with imported food, reviewing the FSANZ/DAFF memorandum of understanding and developing corresponding FSANZ operational processes, and applying the FSANZ emerging issues framework to identify and prioritise imported food safety concerns.


3 www.foodstandards.gov.au/code/changes/workplan

4 www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/gmfood

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