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Chapter 4 - Key enablers

FSANZ's Corporate Plan 2012–15 identifies five ‘key enablers' (capabilities) that will operate across the agency to help staff deliver the strategic imperatives:

  • Science—sustained, leading edge scientific capability
  • People—dedicated people with a broad spread of specialist disciplines
  • Communication—a broad communication capacity
  • Governance and process—good governance and effective processes
  • Anticipation—an anticipative approach to emerging issues

Highlights 2013–14

  • Completed the second phase of redevelopment of our dietary modelling and food composition data systems (Harvest).
  • Development of a systematic and transparent approach on evidence-retrieval (including systematic literature searches) and critical analysis of evidence.
  • Completed all contracted work with the Australian Bureau of Statistics on the 2011–13 Australian Health Survey.
  • Developed and implemented a wide program of organisational reform to set FSANZ on a sustainable path for the future, including the reduction of staff numbers through voluntary redundancies.
  • Launched the FSANZ Innovation Awards to recognise achievement during the previous two years, as a contribution to APS Innovation Month.
  • Dealt with six requests for access to documents under the Freedom of Information Act 1982.
  • Appeared before Senate Estimates hearings to provide information about staffing issues, nanotechnology, food safety, genetically modified food, maximum residue limits and testing of imported food.
  • [The Board] undertook a formal review of the performance of the Board by an external consultant, with the final report expected by late 2014.
  • Met all requirements in the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines.

Science

FSANZ Science Strategy

The FSANZ Science Strategy 2010–15 identifies seven key strategic areas where we can focus our scientific capabilities and resources to meet our future challenges. Annual implementation plans identify deliverables and activities we will conduct under each strategic area.

During the year, we conducted reviews of our progress against the Science Strategy Implementation Plan 2013, developed the plan for 2014–15 and began a number of the implementation activities.

Notable achievements included the development of a systematic and transparent approach on evidence-retrieval (including systematic literature searches) and critical analysis of the evidence. This work will be particularly important to our ongoing work on the substantiation of food-health relationships for health claims.

We continued a wide-ranging and long-term project on agency capacity building in food regulatory risk management, to enhance the rigour of our standards development work. We completed Phase 2 of the Harvest data management and analysis system (see below), to effectively meet FSANZ's current and future data storage, mining, processing and analysis needs.

During the year, we also published AUSNUT 2011–13, the food and nutrient database used by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) for estimating food, dietary supplement and nutrient intakes from the 2011–13 Australian Health Survey.

Harvest database and modelling tool

FSANZ completed the second phase of redevelopment of our dietary modelling and food composition data systems in 2013–14. This new system, Harvest, provides us with most of our current dietary modelling capacity and with further enhancements will pave the way for one of our legacy dietary modelling databases (DIAMOND) to be decommissioned in September 2014.

We have begun the process of populating Harvest with a major new data set—the New Zealand 2008–09 Adult Nutrition Survey, with associated nutrient, pesticide and contaminant and additive dietary modelling capabilities for this survey. This gives Harvest the capacity to undertake complex dietary modelling and dietary exposure assessment analysis for all Australian and New Zealand populations.

Having delivered enhanced dietary modelling analysis and reporting capabilities, we intend to complete those Harvest functionalities relating to storage, manipulation and reporting of food composition data in 2014–15.

Data management strategy

FSANZ began implementing a Data Management Strategy across the agency. The major objectives of the strategy are to:

  • co-locate current scientific data sets through a data asset register
  • establish a governance framework for the data strategy
  • establish business rules around the management of scientific data in FSANZ.

To effectively implement these steps, we have developed seven overarching principles to be applied to managing scientific data in FSANZ, along with associated policies under each of the principles. From these policies, detailed protocols, procedures and guidelines will be developed.

Food composition data

Australian Health Survey

We completed all contracted work with the ABS on the 2011–13 AHS that had been undertaken under a four-year contract.

The primary focus of work this year was the publication of AUSNUT 2011–13, the survey specific databases developed for estimating intakes from the 2011–12 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (NNPAS) component of the AHS. AUSNUT 2011–13 contains 11 data files that collectively provide descriptive and nutrient profile information for 5,644 foods and 2,157 dietary supplements.

Each food has 51 nutrient values, and each dietary supplement has 35 nutrient values
—more than 360,000 individual nutrient values in total. The files also provide information for 15,845 measures and 3,574 recipes for the included foods and files that will allow for comparisons between national nutrition surveys by other users.

We also focused on finalising all contracted work associated with the 2012–13 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (NATSINPAS) component of the AHS. This included validating the survey coding, developing nutrient profiles for foods (including wild caught foods) and dietary supplements and food measures not in the database developed for the NNPAS and preparing the data and documentation to be published as part of AUSNUT 2011–13.

We anticipate publishing an updated AUSNUT 2011–13 later in 2014, following the release of the NATSINPAS results by the ABS.

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People

Organisational reform

In October 2013, the FSANZ Executive set up an internal working group to generate ideas for organisational reform. This exercise aimed to prepare for continued, and possibly increasing, financial constraints within the Australian Public Service and identify new ways of conducting our business so we can meet our statutory obligations.

Ideas put forward by staff were categorised as ‘efficiencies' (i.e. cost-cutting measures) and changes to processes and practices that would ultimately enable FSANZ to meet its obligations and expectations. These options were refined before being considered by the Executive during its annual planning retreat in March.

The Executive decided to introduce a voluntary redundancy program to reduce the FSANZ workforce by about 10%, to just over 100 people, down from 150–160 some seven years ago. It also decided to restructure the workforce from five branches to three, taking advantage of the retirement of two branch managers in June 2014. A work plan for 2014–15 was then developed, which resulted in a number of projects being postponed or cancelled.

Work also commenced on four major review projects—selected from the original list of staff ideas—designed to place FSANZ on the path to a sustainable future.

These projects are led by a member of the Executive. They include a review of the proposals processes for changing food standards; an examination of the feasibility of a graduated risk analysis approach to standard setting; the establishment and strengthening of links and partnerships with other agencies; and a review of the way we communicate with our stakeholders.

A change management team has been set up to ensure timely communication to staff about the organisational reforms, to identify staff training needs (including any psychosocial issues), and to generally support the project teams through 2014–15.

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Organisational capability

Information and communication technology

The agency's ICT function continued to be a key business enabler, enhancer and driver for innovation. During 2013–14, we enhanced our back-end infrastructure to increase performance by tenfold with enhanced capability for new applications to perform and be developed.

We also increased the security of mobile devices, improved our core systems with minimal outages and high availability, and enhanced our SharePoint infrastructure so we can continue to develop business solutions that enhance the user experience as well as improve productivity.

The bi-national nature of FSANZ means we have a heavy reliance on phone, video and desktop sharing. We improved several of these systems over the year, as well as testing an improved method for delivering the desktop to end users in our Wellington office, and remotely. We installed a new phone system, with full video capability throughout the agency, allowing staff to participate in larger meetings from their desks, as well as being able to arrange smaller meetings and one-on-one collaboration without requiring a meeting room.

Our off-site disaster recovery infrastructure is now fully operational at its Fyshwick data centre. This has given us greater preparedness for uncontrolled events and, in conjunction with the updated disaster recovery and business continuity plans, puts us in a confident position.

FSANZ has now engaged a vendor to finalise our Electronic Document Management System implementation. This project will be completed by December 2014. As part of fulfilling the Government requirements through Checkup 2.0, this system will also be compliant with the National Archives of Australia (NAA) Digital Continuity Plan and the Digital Transition Policy.

Innovation

An innovation capability is a cornerstone of FSANZ's business processes, as required by our Corporate Plan. Innovation is one of three pathways identified in our performance management requirements for EL2s to be graded at higher levels. It is highlighted and rewarded in the agency and, during the year, we set up an ideas bank on our intranet to put staff with ideas for change in touch with ‘innovation champions'.

The most effective activity in 2013–14 was the launch of the FSANZ Innovation Awards to recognise achievements during the previous two years. Some 25 innovative projects were nominated by staff, which were assessed by a team of peers to produce four finalists. Each finalist gave a 15-minute presentation before staff voted for a winner. More than 50% of staff voted and one-third of staff were directly involved in the awards in some capacity.

We continued our support for the Public Sector Innovation Network and, through it, we provided assistance to the Department of Finance on developing an ideas management system for the APS.

Staff Forum

FSANZ's staff forum is made up of representatives from each section. The forum meets monthly to discuss issues of importance and concern to staff. The chair of the forum attends an Executive meeting each month to provide feedback on current issues.

During 2013–14, the forum generated ideas on additional wellness activities for the Executive to consider. This work was key to a decision to purchase two standing work stations for the Canberra office. The workstations are able to be booked by staff members who are looking to receive the benefits of standing for part of the day, while continuing with their normal work duties.

The forum also reviewed FSANZ's formal rewards and recognition program. Forum members also coordinated the comments from staff on new policies during the year, in particular, new policies on teleworking, relocation assistance and work support benefits.

Workplace Consultative Committee

Formal consultation between unions and FSANZ management on issues arising out of the FSANZ Enterprise Agreement 2011–2014 occurs through the Workplace Consultative Committee. The Committee comprises representatives of management, unions and staff. In 2013–14, no issues of concern were taken to the Workplace Consultative Committee for resolution.

Sustainable development

Our main office premises in Barton is rated 4.5 stars on the National Australian Built Environment Rating System. The first year of our green lease has seen a reduction in our energy use resulting from improved building insulation and more efficient air-conditioning. Regular monitoring of building temperatures and the remote monitoring of the
air-conditioning systems have allowed facilities staff to address issues as they arise.

During the year, FSANZ worked with its cleaning contractor to improve the separation and recycling of waste products. This has resulted in a much larger proportion of waste being redirected from landfill to recycling.

Training

As an agency with a highly skilled and qualified workforce, FSANZ invests a considerable amount of resources in ensuring staff skills are maintained at a high level. Employees participate in national and international science-based forums to ensure they are across the current science in their discipline. Some employees are also being supported to achieve higher qualifications through the Studybank program.

In addition to this technical training, we support activities identified in individual development plans, which are agreed between employees and their supervisors. Supported development varies from conference attendance, membership of professional bodies, technical skills and generic APS training.

We ensured that key corporate training needs were met in 2013–14. Changes to legislation, such as the Privacy Act 1988 and the Public Interest Disclosure Act 2013, necessitated specific training for all staff. Employees also received training for the implications of the governance changes resulting from the introduction of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.

To support our organisational reform initiatives, we also arranged change management training for all staff.

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FSANZ employment profile

Tables 11–16 below provide a summary of FSANZ's employment profile for the year, compared with 2012–13 and with the Australian Public Service (APS). APS statistics were obtained from the State of the Service Report 2012–13. Data for FSANZ and the APS are as at 30 June for the year in question.

Table 11: Total employees

FSANZ

2012–13

APS

2012–13

FSANZ

2013–14

Total employees

129

167,257

112

Total employees (ongoing)

115

152,230

107

Total employees (non-ongoing)

14

15,027

5

New Zealand-based employees (ongoing)

11

n/a

11

New Zealand-based employees (non-ongoing)

2

n/a

0

We experienced a significant reduction in the number of employees during 2013–14.
The APS interim recruitment arrangements resulted in the cessation of a number of ongoing contracts through the year. We also offered voluntary redundancies to a number of people who expressed interest late in the year. As a result, FSANZ finished the year with 17 less employees.

Table 12: Stability and mobility

FSANZ

2012–13

APS

2012–13

FSANZ

2013–14

New starters (% employees ongoing)

2.3% (3 people)

5.0%

0.9% (1 person)

New starters (% employees non-ongoing)

4.7% (6 people)

n/a

5.4% (6 people)

Separations (% employees ongoing)

3.9% (5 people)

5.7%

15.9% (17 people)

Retention rate (% ongoing employees)

94.8% (109 people)

90.1%

87.0% (100 people)

FSANZ had only one ongoing commencement for the year. There was some minor churn of new non-ongoing employees as staff in critical positions who commenced long-term leave, e.g. maternity leave, were replaced on a non-ongoing basis. Our retention rate fell, due to 12 staff members electing to take voluntary redundancies.

Table 13: Workforce diversity

FSANZ

2012–13

APS

2012–13

FSANZ

2013–14

Indigenous Australian employees

0.0%

2.3%

0.0%

Employees with disability

3.1% (4 people)

2.9%

3.6% (4 people)

NESB (employees in Australia)

4.7% (6 people)

5.4%

6.3% (7 people)

Women

69.0% (89 people)

57.9%

67.9% (76 people)

Non-ongoing employees

10.9% (14 people)

9.0%

4.5% (5 people)

Part-time employees (ongoing)

20.2% (26 people)

14.7%

20.5% (23 people)

Part-time employees (non-ongoing)

1.6% (2 people)

55.1%

1.8% (2 people)

Part-time female employees

19.4% (25 people)

22.5%

20.5% (23 people)

Part-time male employees

1.6% (2 people)

4.3%

1.8% (2 people)

FSANZ has a very specialised workforce and does not target specific diversity groups in its recruitment practices. Where employees elect to disclose their diversity status, FSANZ ensures that appropriate support is put in place. We have a slightly higher representation of employees with a disability and from non-English speaking backgrounds in our workforce than the APS average.

We continue to employ a higher proportion of women than the broader APS—almost 68%. We believe our support for part-time employment (20.5%) and other flexible working arrangements has contributed to this figure.

Table 14: Workforce experience

FSANZ

2012–13

APS

2012–13

FSANZ

2013–14

New starters (% all employees)

7.0% (9 people)

6.7%

6.3% (7 people)

Average length of service in APS (ongoing)

11.4 years

9.0 years
(ongoing)

12.2 years

Average length of service in APS (non-ongoing)

2.9 years

n/a

2.7 years

The percentage of new starters decreased from 13% in 2011–12 to 6% in 2013–14. A significant proportion of new starters are non-ongoing employees on short-term contracts, reflecting the overall reduction in staff numbers and tighter budgets.

Table 15: Ageing workforce

FSANZ

2012–13

APS

2012–13

FSANZ

2013–14

Employees > 55yo (% employees)

27.1% (35 people)

15.1% (ongoing)

26.8% (30 people)

Separations of ongoing >55yo (%)

1.5% (2 people)

2.0%

7.0% (9 people)

Separations of non-ongoing >55yo (%)

2.2% (3 people)

n/a

0.0% (0 people)

Re-engagement of non-ongoing >55yo (% of age group)

0.0%

n/a

0.0%

Our workforce has not aged significantly over the past 12 months, with a higher proportion of those over 55 than in other age groups leaving the agency. However, our workforce is, on average, older than the APS as a whole, with almost double the proportion of staff in the over-55 group than in the wider APS. The median age of FSANZ employees is 46.2, compared with the median APS age of 42.7 years.

Table 16: Classification structure

FSANZ

2012–13

APS

2012–13

FSANZ

2013–14

Classification structure (% employees)

APS levels

38.0% (49 people)

66.8%

37.5% (42 people)

EL levels

57.4% (74 people)

27.4%

58.0% (65 people)

SES

4.7% (6 people)

1.8%

4.5% (5 people)

Staff promoted (ongoing)

3.1% (4 people)

8.7% (ongoing)

1.8% (2 people)

Due to the nature of FSANZ's work, involving large numbers of Executive level specialist scientific staff, the proportion of APS-level employees (37.5%) is significantly less than the APS average of 66.8%.

Employment environment

Enterprise Agreement (EA)

All Australian-based FSANZ non-SES employees are covered by an Agreement for the Employees of Food Standards Australia New Zealand 2011–2014. The agreement has a nominal expiry date of 30 June 2014. Negotiations to replace the agreement commenced in May 2014. New Zealand employees are employed under individual contracts consistent with New Zealand employment law.

FSANZ only rarely uses individual flexibility agreements to supplement the conditions of staff, where employees seek to modify specific conditions in the Enterprise Agreement. Currently, three of our employees have an individual flexibility agreement.

The agreement is supported by a range of supporting policies, which are approved following extensive consultation with staff and managers. In 2013–14, we developed new policies on Relocation Assistance, Teleworking and Work Support Benefits.

Work health and safety (WHS)

The work health and safety committee oversaw improved emergency signage around FSANZ's Canberra premises alerting staff to emergency contacts. We continued to coordinate regular emergency evacuations at the Canberra office, where FSANZ undertakes the role of building warden.

During the course of the year, two major earthquakes in New Zealand affected our Wellington premises. One of these resulted in the closing of the New Zealand office until the building was inspected by engineers and given the structural ‘all clear'. During this period, we learnt a considerable amount about the importance of communicating with staff during a general emergency. This was particularly important in being able to inform staff when the building had been cleared for occupation. Fortunately, the owners of the premises had completed work to strengthen the building in 2013–14, which reduced the risk of earthquake damage.

Comcare accepted one claim for workers compensation from an employee during the year. This is the first upheld workers compensation claim in FSANZ for a number of years.

Workplace wellness

We maintain an active workplace wellness program, which is well supported by the agency's Executive through resources and encouragement. For example, we continued to financially support lunchtime yoga sessions for staff.

We also continued to provide free influenza vaccinations and held three sessions—two in Australia and one in New Zealand—outlining the Alexander Technique for managing spinal health.

FSANZ also supports flexible working arrangements. A high number of employees, both in the early stages of parenting and approaching retirement, have part-time agreements and many employees purchase leave to better balance work and family responsibilities. We also have a number of employees working regularly from home, i.e. in Tasmania, Brisbane, Melbourne and the south coast of New South Wales. These arrangements have improved employee productivity and allowed flexibility in delivering work.

Workplace bullying and harassment

FSANZ had no reported bullying and harassment complaints in 2013–14. As an agency, we work hard to ensure employees have the support they need to help prevent any work relationship issues escalating. A diverse and active network of harassment contact officers helps to advise staff when issues emerge. These contact officers have recently received refresher training covering the changes associated with the introduction of the Public Interest Disclosure (PID) Act and the new bullying provisions of the Fair Work Act.

All staff have been made aware of their rights to approach Authorised Officers under the PID Act to make a public disclosure of inappropriate behaviour in the agency. To date, there have been no public interest disclosures in FSANZ.

Workplace diversity and disability

FSANZ is committed to ensuring it provides a workplace that is free from discrimination, patronage and favouritism, recognising the diversity of the Australian community and fostering diversity in the workplace.

Only a small number of employees have nominated that they have a disability. We support these employees by providing equipment and technology to help them to reach their potential in the workplace.

Rewards and recognition

FSANZ has a comprehensive staff rewards and recognition program. Awards presented during the year were the:

 



 

Chair's Annual Development Award
—awarded to Dr Barry Fields for work on tutin, the review of infant formula and hydrocyanic acid in apricot kernels. Dr Fields, a protein chemist, joined FSANZ in 2008.




Australia Day Medallion
—awarded to Dr Trevor Webb in recognition of his role in incorporating the disciplines of economics and social sciences into the work of FSANZ. In particular, Dr Webb and his team have been integral in estimating the economic and social impact of changes in food rEgulation developed in FSANZ.

Pikorua Bone Pendant (symbolising Waitangi Day)
—awarded to General Manager, Food Standards (Wellington), Mr Dean Stockwell. Mr Stockwell was recognised for his contributions to FSANZ and the relationships developed over the years, within Australia and New Zealand, and with our international partners.

FSANZ Innovation Award
—awarded to the food recall team for developing and implementing a customised electronic database and associated work efficiencies. The changes and system upgrades have significantly improved the timeliness and management of out-of-hours food recalls.

Chief Executive Officer's Half-Yearly Awards
—awarded to Ms Treza Jensen for her continued support of the Executive, and the BSE team, comprising Dr Scott Crerar, Dr Hong Jin, Dr Leise Berven, Dr Rosalind Dalefield and Dr Jamie Conlan.

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Organisational structure

In 2013–14 FSANZ's six-member executive team comprised the Chief Executive Officer, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Executive Manager Food Standards (Canberra Branch), Executive Manager Risk Assessment Branch, the Chief Scientist, General Manager Food Standards (Wellington Branch) and General Manager Legal and Regulatory Affairs Branch.

FSANZ risk assessment and risk management functions were conducted in different branches to separate these activities.

The Food Standards Branch in Canberra was largely responsible for risk management relating to food safety and public health and nutrition standards in the Food Standards Code, for coordinating Australia-wide responses to food incidents and for nutrition and public health activities. The branch was also responsible for corporate operations, consumer and social sciences, regulatory analysis and ICT. The corresponding branch in Wellington was responsible for developing labelling and compositional standards (including product safety), finance, and for providing information in New Zealand.

Our Risk Assessment Branch carried out the scientific evaluation of risks to human health arising from a range of hazards in food, including dietary modelling. The branch also collected and analysed compositional information evaluating the effectiveness of food standards and provided strategic support for FSANZ's HR and innovation functions.

In addition, a Chief Public Health and Nutrition Advisor provided strategic advice to FSANZ on public health and nutrition matters.

Senior management

Working under strategic directions set by the Board, the CEO, in close consultation with other members of the Executive, leads and effectively manages agency operations. The management group, comprising section managers and the Executive, meets weekly. Section managers, and their respective Executive/General managers, are responsible for supervising staff to ensure they meet milestones, appropriately use budgets and staffing resources and contribute effectively to our goals and outcomes.

During the year, six senior executive service staff received performance bonuses totalling $125,706 and 20 employees received performance payments totalling $134,383.

In 2013–14, our executive team comprised:

Steve McCutcheon—Chief Executive Officer

Mr McCutcheon is responsible to the FSANZ Board for the efficient administration of the agency and, in conjunction with the Board, for the corporate and strategic directions of FSANZ. He is also an ex officio member of the Board.

Melanie Fisher—Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Executive Manager Food Standards (Canberra)

Ms Fisher is responsible for risk management associated with developing food standards that primarily address health and safety matters, including standards for the primary industries, as well as for the agency's social sciences and regulatory impact and analysis activities, and innovation and reform. In addition, she has senior management responsibility for corporate services, including library, human resources and ICT functions.

Dr Marion Healy—Executive Manager Risk Assessment

Dr Healy has executive responsibility for the agency's risk assessment activities involving chemical, microbiological and nutritional analyses and the assessment of the BSE status of overseas countries. She is also responsible for the agency's innovation and reform function, including strategic human resources matters, and food composition and consumption studies and dietary modelling.

Dr Paul Brent—Chief Scientist

Dr Brent has executive responsibility for FSANZ's strategic scientific work, data collection activities and developing collaborative relations with scientific institutions and the program that evaluates the impact of our standard setting activities. He also coordinates our scientific relations with international agencies, especially Codex.

Dean Stockwell—General Manager Food Standards (Wellington)

Mr Stockwell is responsible for the risk management functions associated with developing food standards that address labelling and information matters, food contaminants, food composition, food additives and foods requiring pre-approval such as novel foods. Mr Stockwell is the senior FSANZ representative in New Zealand and is responsible for managing relationships with consumers, industry, government and other stakeholders there. He also has executive responsibility for finance.

Peter May—General Manager Legal and Regulatory Affairs

Mr May is responsible for corporate governance, oversight of the Office of General Counsel (an independent provider of internal legal advice), maintaining the Food Standards Code, and parliamentary and ministerial liaison. He also has executive oversight of communication and stakeholder engagement.

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Communication

Transparency of information

The Australian Government's Information Publication Scheme promotes transparency and pro-disclosure and means that all applications to change the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, as well as submissions on applications and proposals, are published on our website, free of charge.

We do not provide any material that is confidential commercial information or where we have been asked to keep certain information confidential, such as personal information.

The executive summary from an application is published when we publicly notify our decision to accept the application on completion of the administrative assessment. When the call for submissions occurs, the main application is placed on the website. However, if a request for access is made from the public before release, it will be provided. Supporting information such as raw studies or references will be available to the public on request at any time. Material that is too large to be placed on the website will continue to be available on request.

Submissions are published on the website as soon as possible after the end of the public comment period.

Case study: communicating information on BSE

FSANZ received a number of enquiries from importers, food industry, authorities of foreign governments and consumers on issues concerning our progress with BSE country food safety assessments. We liaised closely with the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (centrally and through country posts), and the Department of Health in preparing a government response to the inquiries on beef imports held by the Senate Standing Committee of Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport in 2010 and 2013.

We maintained a high level of engagement with our key stakeholders and provided advanced notifications to our key stakeholders before the public release of every country BSE food safety assessment report.

Release of personal information and freedom of information requests

In 2013–2014, FSANZ received six requests for access to documents under the Freedom of Information Act 1982. All of these requests were finalised by 30 June 2014.

Table 17: FOI requests

2010–11

2011–12

2012–13

2013–14

Requests under FOI legislation

3

7

10

6

FSANZ received no requests under the Privacy Act 1988 in 2013–14 for access to personal information.

Initial enquiries concerning access to documents under the Freedom of Information Act or access to personal information under the Privacy Act should be directed to the FOI coordinator at FOI@foodstandards.gov.au or on +61 2 6271 2222.

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Governance and process

Role and priorities

FSANZ's main and subsidiary objectives for developing food standards are set out in Section 18 of the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991. Our functions are outlined in s.13 of the Act. These legislative requirements determine the way we do our core business.

Our goal is to achieve a high degree of public confidence in the safety and quality of food. This goal is shared by all elements of the food regulatory system. Our outputs (food standards) provide the food industry with the regulatory framework for conducting business, but the ultimate beneficiaries of our work are the Australian and New Zealand populations.

As described in our Corporate Plan 2012–15, we operate under three strategic imperatives:

  • Build and sustain food standards and practices to support high standards of public health protection and a dynamic and sustainable food manufacturing sector.
  • Maintain a transparent and evidence-based approach to regulation and the management of food risks.
  • Support informed consumer decisions about food by collecting and providing relevant information.

These imperatives provide the framework for our annual undertakings to the Australian Parliament, outlined in Portfolio Budget Statements (PBS), and reflected in the aims of Program 1.1 of the Health PBS. We report against the deliverables and key performance indicators of Program 1.1 in the section on priorities and performance in this report.

Regulatory partners

FSANZ is one of three elements of the food regulatory system. The Australian and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation (known as the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation in 2013–14), supported by the Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC), develops and provides policy on food regulation. The states, territories and New Zealand ensure compliance and enforcement of provisions of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, increasingly through the coordination activities of FRSC's Implementation Subcommittee for Food Regulation, of which FSANZ is a member.

Australian states and territories

Under an inter-governmental agreement, the states and territories agreed to adopt, without variation, food standards recommended by the National Food Authority (now FSANZ). The purpose of the original 1991 agreement was to consolidate responsibility for developing food standards into one specialist agency and to ensure the uniformity of food standards across all states and territories.

New Zealand

On 1 July 1996, a treaty between Australia and New Zealand to establish a single joint
food-standards system came into force. The joint arrangement (last updated in 2010) aims to harmonise food standards between the two countries, reduce compliance costs for industry and help remove regulatory barriers to trade in food.

The treaty does not cover MRLs, food hygiene provisions, primary production standards and export requirements relating to third country trade. It contains provisions that allow New Zealand to opt out of a joint standard for exceptional reasons relating to health, safety, trade, environmental concerns or cultural issues. In such cases, FSANZ may be asked to prepare a variation to a standard to apply only in New Zealand. An amended treaty with New Zealand was signed in July 2010.

We work collaboratively with the Ministry for Primary Industries, which has carriage of food standards matters in New Zealand.

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Governance and parliament

Contact with Ministers and their offices throughout the year related to information,
parliamentary-related functions and the provision of public affairs support.

Ministerial correspondence

Table 18: Ministerial correspondence

Completed

on time

1–2 days late

3–7 days late

8–14 days late

>14 days late

TOTAL

for action

For info / no further action

2013–14

21

0

0

0

0

21

5

100%

0%

0%

0%

0%

100%

2012–13

55

0

0

0

0

55

60

100%

0%

0%

0%

0%

100%

2011–12

1071

0

0

0

0

107

119

100%

0%

0%

0%

0%

100%

1 This includes 7 responses that were provided by the due date, but were processed the next working day

FSANZ also provided input into correspondence on a large number of matters relating to our responsibilities, with overall responsibility for these resting with the Department of Health or other Australian, state or territory government departments.

Issues raised in correspondence included general food safety issues, food additives, safety of supermarket trolleys, food recalls, labelling issues including use-by dates and country of origin, low THC hemp, carbendazim and other chemical maximum residue limits, antimicrobial resistance, imported food issues, trans fats, bisphenol A and genetically modified food.

Ministerial submissions

Table 19: Ministerial submissions

Sent Returned

2013–14

22

19

2012–13

26

26

2011–12

53

53

Issues raised in submissions (previously known as minutes) included FSANZ Board outcomes, BSE risk assessment updates, release of surveys, staff and Board travel to New Zealand, staff travel overseas and cost recovery issues.

Briefing note requests

Table 20: Briefing note requests

Received Sent Late

2013–14

3

3

0

2012–13

4

4

0

2011–12

3

4

0

We responded to briefing note requests on a number of matters relating to our responsibilities, as well as providing input into briefings which were the responsibility of the Department of Health or other departments. Issues included labelling, maximum residue limits, heavy metal contamination of canned products, the 24th ATDS, meetings with peak organisations, palm oil, genetically modified food and cost recovery.

Senate Estimates

Senior staff were required to appear before Senate Estimates on three occasions during the year (October 2013, February 2014 and June 2014). Issues raised during the hearings and in subsequent questions on notice included staffing issues, nanotechnology, food safety, genetically modified food, maximum residue limits and testing of imported food. We answered over 40 questions on notice specifically addressed to FSANZ.

We also provided input into nearly 30 answers to questions on notice being managed by the Department of Health.

Question Time briefings

Ministers are asked questions without notice in Question Time in the Parliament and these must be responded to orally. Confidential briefings are prepared by FSANZ to assist the Minister to respond to any questions which relate to our responsibilities. These are known as Question Time Briefings (QTBs). These briefings are also kept up-to-date between Parliamentary Sittings to provide advance assistance to the Minister in dealing with urgent or controversial issues.

We prepared six QTBs (a reduction of more than 50% from 2012–13). We also provided input to numerous QTBs prepared by other areas in the portfolio, or other departments, where the issues crossed portfolio or agency responsibilities. Issues included raw milk products, BSE, trans fatty acids, and genetically modified food safety, as well as labelling and low THC hemp.

Parliamentary inquiries

During the year, we made submissions or provided information to the Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport References Committee's inquiries into the importation of unsafe food products from New Zealand; the citrus industry in Australia; the use of fenthion in Australia's horticultural industry; and the future of beekeeping and pollination service industries in Australia.

We also provided evidence, at a public hearing, to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry's inquiry into country of origin food labelling and made a submission to the New Zealand Government Inquiry into the whey protein concentrate contamination incident.

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FSANZ Board

FSANZ has a 12-member Board. Australian Board members are selected by the Australian Assistant Minister for Health, in consultation with the Forum on Food Regulation. The nine Australian members are appointed by the Australian Assistant Minister for Health, following consultation with the Australian, state, territory and New Zealand governments and consideration by the Cabinet.

The three New Zealand members are nominated by the New Zealand Government and appointed by the Australian Assistant Minister for Health. Members of the Board may be drawn from a number of areas of expertise covering public health, food science, medical science, consumer policy, primary industry, the National Health and Medical Research Council, the food industry and government.

All members are part-time, except for the FSANZ Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Details of the qualifications of Board members and their attendance at meetings are summarised in Appendix 11. The CEO, Mr Steve McCutcheon, is an ex-officio member of the Board. Mr McCutcheon's current period of appointment expires on 28 October 2015.

The Board recognises the importance of applying sound governance principles and practices. It has adopted a Board Charter to ensure that both FSANZ and the Board meet its objectives. The Charter sets out the Board's objectives, authority, composition and tenure, reporting and administrative arrangements. The Charter also sets out the Board's roles and responsibilities, including:

  • establishing and disclosing the respective roles and responsibilities of the Board and management
  • exercising key Board functions efficiently and effectively, including ethical and responsible decision-making
  • exercising sound Board governance processes to facilitate the achievement of FSANZ's objectives
  • striving to continuously improve Board and FSANZ processes.

The Charter also includes guidelines for dealing with directors' conflicts of interest and material personal interests, as required by the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 (CAC Act).

The Board meets at least four times per year and also convenes through teleconferences as required. Four Board meetings and four Board teleconferences were held in 2013–14. Outcomes of FSANZ Board meetings are published on the FSANZ website.

Ethical standards

The Board Charter includes guidelines for managing members' conflicts of interest and material personal interests as required by the CAC Act.

Board development and review

FSANZ provides a formal induction for new Board members, including a meeting with the Chair, CEO and Executive team. They are provided with an Induction Manual (which includes the Board Charter, Corporate Plan, Business Plan and other relevant information). During 2013–14, four new members were appointed to the Board, with induction programs being conducted in July and August 2013.

FSANZ also conducts an annual training session for its Board members, which generally covers issues such as the duties and responsibilities of directors; the unique perspective of a Board functioning under the CAC Act; and the need for directors to have an independent view and governance compared with management. An education session was held in September 2013, facilitated by the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD).

In June 2014, the Board received a presentation from a representative of the Department of Finance, which focused on preparation by the Board for transition to the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013.

Board performance

The Board Chair, in consultation with the FSANZ CEO, initiates a formal review of the performance of the Board every two years. The review is conducted using a mix of external evaluation and facilitated self-assessment, with appropriate input sought from all parties, including Board members, the CEO, management and any other relevant stakeholders, as determined by the Board. A formal review of the performance of the Board was undertaken by an external consultant in 2013–14, with the final report to be presented to the Board in late 2014.

Along with the biennial review of the performance of the Board, an evaluation of meetings is undertaken by two Board members at alternate meetings. The evaluation is undertaken using a proforma evaluation form which is provided to the Chair, who discusses the evaluation with the CEO and other Board members as appropriate.

Finance, Audit and Risk Management Committee

The Finance, Audit and Risk Management Committee (FARMC) consists of non-executive Board Directors. The committee supports the Board's oversight responsibilities relating to the financial and business affairs of FSANZ; the preparation and integrity of FSANZ's financial accounts and statements; internal controls; policies and procedures used to identify and manage business risks, insurance activities and compliance with legal and regulatory requirements; and compliance policies.

In 2013–14, the FARMC, under the chairmanship of Dr David Roberts, continued to monitor the corporate governance and risk management activities of the organisation, advising the Board on FSANZ's appetite for risk in relation to strategic, operational and fraud control matters. The committee monitors the identification and management of risks to FSANZ, providing assurance that reasonable steps have been taken to address the risks by reducing the likelihood they (and their consequences) will occur.

FARMC also oversees our corporate risk assessment processes, and these risk assessments inform both FARMC's risk monitoring activities and the Strategic Internal Audit Plan. Internal audits considered by FARMC during the year related to the management of consultancies, payroll processing and a review of FSANZ Act compliance.

FARMC continued to provide independent assurance and advice to the Board on FSANZ's risk, control, compliance, governance framework, and its financial statement responsibilities.

FARMC observers have included representatives from the Australian National Audit Office, an internal auditor, and our CEO and Chief Finance Officer.

Remuneration and Senior Staff Committee

The Remuneration and Senior Staff Committee of the Board meets infrequently to consider issues such as remuneration and performance standards for the CEO, as well as Board remuneration issues (which are determined by the Remuneration Tribunal). The committee comprises four members (the chair, plus three). The General Manager, Legal and Regulatory Affairs, is the Secretary to the committee.

The Remuneration and Senior Staff Committee was not required to meet during 2013–14.

Directors' insurance

Under the Comcover Statement of Cover, we maintained professional indemnity insurance coverage for our directors (Board members) and officers of $100 million.

Business planning and management

Consultants, competitive tendering and contractors

We spent $1.34m on consultants and contractors during the year on services and products costing more than $10,000 (see Appendix 9 for details).

Fraud control plan

We met all of the requirements in the Commonwealth Fraud Control Guidelines. Our Fraud Control Plan came into effect in 2012 and is due for review in 2015. The plan includes procedures for fraud prevention, detection, investigation, reporting and risk mitigation that help us comply with the guidelines.

Cost recovery arrangements

In the second half of 2013, FSANZ commenced work on additional cost recovery impact analysis following a previous internal review of our cost recovery arrangements that was completed in late 2012. This work is nearing completion and is expected to be released for public comment in the second half of 2014. In the interim, so as to apply the mandatory requirements for cost recovery set out in the FSANZ Act, FSANZ is seeking approval from the Assistant Minister for Health to apply the current hourly charges to high level health claim variations, which do not have any prescribed arrangements in place.

The original review report, submissions and earlier consultation paper are available on the FSANZ website.

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Anticipation

Scientific matters

Nanotechnology

FSANZ maintained a watching brief on nanotechnology issues, continuing its participation with the inter-government Health, Safety and Environment Working Group and with international forums of food regulators. We also continued to engage with industry and other stakeholders on the potential use of nano-materials in food and food packaging.

Food packaging

We undertook a review of potential risks posed by chemical migration from food packaging to establish whether there is a demonstrated need to revise the requirements in the Code for packaging and packaging contaminants. The review was presented to the FSANZ Board in December 2013.

We met the objectives of the review by building the evidence base on chemical hazards associated with packaging materials and developing an understanding of current industry risk management practices. This work was facilitated through active engagement with the food packaging industry, as well as other food businesses, to seek their views and expert technical input on food packaging.

The Board agreed that the work should progress through a formal proposal process. A public consultation paper will be developed to call for information on industries' capabilities in managing potential risks associated with chemical migration from virgin packaging and recycled packaging.

Contaminants in oils

3-MCPD esters4 occur in some foods as a by-product of the refining (deodorisation) process for oils and fats and may be found in all processed vegetable oils (including palm oils and palm oil products, soy, rapeseed, coconut and sunflower oil, safflower, groundnut, corn, olive, cottonseed and rice bran oil) to a variable extent. Glycidyl esters (GEs) are also process contaminants generated during the deodorisation step of edible oil refining.

We intend to determine if there is any risk for Australian and New Zealand consumers of 3-MCPD esters and glycidyl esters in oils used in the production of foods. We have completed a survey of some manufacturers using oils and oil processors in Australia and New Zealand, to collect information on levels in foods and the mitigation measures currently in place.

The toxicology of these substances requires further investigation. We are keeping a watching brief on the work going on internationally and note the planned future assessment by JECFA.

4 3-monochloropropane-1,2-diol

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