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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 2014–15

  • Gazetted (published) five applications and seven proposals to amend the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, including a revised Code that will take effect on 1 March 2016.
  • Completed a Ministerial review of FSANZ's decision to permit the sale of food derived from low THC hemp.
  • Completed or progressed several projects in the lead-up to the commencement in full of the new health claims standard in January 2016.
  • Abandoned a review of food-type dietary supplements because of changes in the marketplace that have occurred since the review started a decade ago.
  • Completed BSE safety assessments for Mexico, the United States and Argentina and assigned each country a category 1 status; conducted an in-country verification visit to Japan.
  • Commenced a review of Safe Food Australia, a guide for jurisdictions (and industry) on requirements in the Code, after receiving strong support from food enforcement agencies for such a review.
  • Developed costing tools that increase FSANZ's effectiveness in assessing the net benefits of changes to the Code, including a Cost of Illness Model and a Labelling Costing Model, and began work on a Government Cost Model.
  • Reviewed the risk advice on 'risk category' foods (as listed in the Imported Food Control Order 2001) that FSANZ provides to the Department of Agriculture to determine foods that pose a medium-to-high risk to public health.

Introduction

FSANZ's main function under the FSANZ Act is to develop and maintain food standards that are incorporated into the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code). Provisions in the Code are mandatory for businesses that produce, manufacture or handle food. Australian state and territory governments, and the New Zealand Government, give effect to the Code requirements in their Food Acts. These jurisdictions ensure that businesses comply with the provisions and enforce compliance, if necessary.

While we are mindful that public health and safety is our prime responsibility, the FSANZ Act also requires us to have regard to other factors, including the competitiveness of the food industry and the harmonisation of food standards with international standards. We are also required to ensure that the benefits of our decisions will outweigh the costs to the community (i.e. consumers, industry and government).

The food industry is very innovative and applies, each year, for changes to be made to the Code to accommodate new foods and food substances, and new production processes. FSANZ also initiates action to amend the Code, mainly for public health and safety reasons.

Any individual or organisation can apply to FSANZ to have the Code amended. Applicants must provide certain evidence to support their reasons for requesting an amendment. After an initial assessment, the application (if accepted) is added to the FSANZ Work Plan and is progressed within statutory timeframes, at no cost to the applicant (unless FSANZ determines that an applicant has an exclusive capturable commercial benefit (ECCB); or an applicant wants work to start on the assessment immediately, rather than according to the anticipated timeframes).

Summary of food regulatory activity

Applications and proposals gazetted in 2014–15

We gazetted five variations to food standards from applications (nine in 2013–14) and seven variations from proposals (two in 2013–14). Detailed information on applications and proposals processed in 2014–15 is contained in Appendix 2.

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

Information on the processes used by FSANZ to assess applications or proposals to amend the Code can be found on the FSANZ website at www.foodstandards.gov.au/code/changes/ (general) and www.foodstandards.gov.au/applicationhandbook (detailed). A summary appears earlier in this report under FSANZ's Operating Environment.

Amendments to the FSANZ Application Handbook

Under the FSANZ Act, FSANZ can make guidelines which set out mandatory information and format requirements that applications must include. FSANZ has compiled these mandatory requirements in Part three of the FSANZ Application Handbook (Handbook). Parts one and two of the Handbook are for information only. Part one provides an overview of the food standards system. Part two provides general information to assist on application procedures. It includes information on fees, assessment and food standard-setting processes.

Amendments to parts one and two were made on 1 June 2015 to include information relating to the cost recovery arrangements for high level health claim variations and to make a number of minor amendments to the text to update information and to clarify meaning.

Standards Development Work Plan

FSANZ is required to develop and publish a three-year forward plan for applications and proposals on which it intends to develop standards or variations to standards, no later than 30 June each year. In developing the plan, FSANZ must consult interested parties and review and update the plan at least every three months.

We called for public submissions in May 2015 and received two submissions, which are being considered by FSANZ. The Standards Development Work Plan is available on our website at foodstandards.gov.au/code/changes/workplan.

Table 1 shows the number of applications and proposals received or prepared from 1 October 2007 onwards on the work plan as at 30 June 2015. Table 2 shows the number of applications, proposals and potential proposals on the work plan (received or prepared before 1 October 2007) as at 30 June 2015, in all work plan groups.

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

As at
30 June 2012
30 June 2013
30 June 2014
30 June 2015
General procedure
14

(4 paid)
11

(3 paid)
14

(2 paid)
19

(7 paid)
Minor procedure
1
0
0
0
Major procedure
6

(1 paid)
7
4
3
High level health claims
N/A
0
0
0
Urgent applications or proposals
0
0
0
0
Under review
1
1
1
0
Total
22
19
19
22
With the Forum on Food Regulation or awaiting notification to the Forum
3
2
2
8
Estimated waiting time for unpaid applications
2 months approx.
2 months approx.
6 months approx.
9 months approx.

* Table 1 does not include potential applications and proposals for which an administrative assessment has commenced, but has not yet been completed, as these have not yet been placed on the work plan, or where an application has been accepted and proposal prepared, but was not on the work plan as at 30 June.

Table 2: Applications and proposals on the Work Plan (received or prepared before 1 October 2007)

As at
30 June 2012
30 June 2013
30 June 2014
30 June 2015
Group 1
5
5
4
2
Group 2
4
4
4
4
Under review
1
0
0
0
Total
10
9
8
6
With the Forum on Food Regulation or awaiting notification to the Forum
0
0
0
0
Estimated waiting time Group 2
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown
Unknown

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 scheduled for commencement in order of receipt.

Tables 3 and 4 summarise our performance in developing food standards. Of note, is the sharp increase in applications to amend the Code received in 2014–15.

Table 3: Total applications received and accepted onto the Work Plan and proposals prepared

2011–12
2012–13
2013–14
2014–15
Applications
111
6
42
17
Proposals
9
7
63
6
Total
20
13
10
23

1 Includes any applications received in this year and accepted onto the work plan in the following year.

2 Includes one cost-recovered application which was rejected because the applicant chose not to pay the fees owing for an exclusive capturable commercial benefit by the due date.

3 Includes one proposal which was prepared and then abandoned within this financial year.

Table 4: Applications and proposals finalised

2011–12
2012–13
2013–14
2014–15
Approvals made by the FSANZ Board
19
18
11
18
Final assessments made by the FSANZ Board
1
0
0
1
Applications withdrawn or rejected* proposals abandoned
3
2
5
2
Total completed
23
20
16
21
Applications or proposals gazetted
22
19
11
12

* This includes potential applications rejected at administrative assessment.

Further information on the above can be obtained from Appendix 2. There also may be some discrepancies between tables 4 and 7 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 considering applications and proposals during 2014–15, while Table 6 summarises the status of 'legacy projects' commenced before 1 October 2007.

Table 5: Reasons for significant delays in considering applications and proposals in 2014–15

Application / Proposal
Step
Variation1
Reason
A576 – Labelling of Alcoholic Beverages with a Pregnancy Health Advisory Label Draft assessment 6 years 5 months + (from date Final Assessment due) Work has been deferred until mid-2016 at the request of the Applicant.
P1016 – Hydrocyanic Acid in Apricot Kernels & Other Foods Assessment, preparation of draft food regulatory measure and call for submissions

Approval
23 months

30 months
Delayed due to the complexity of assessment issues. These issues included FSANZ consideration of the inclusion of other foods as this was considered to be more efficient, timely and beneficial to FSANZ, jurisdictions and consumers. FSANZ was also seeking an agreement from the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries to conduct further surveys on cyanogenic glycosides in apricot kernels and other foods and to address an issue with detections in apple juice.

Approval delayed to allow Ministers to consider at a face-to-face meeting.
P1024 – Revision of the Regulation of Nutritive Substances & Novel Food Assessment 26 months + The complexity of issues has resulted in the need for additional preparatory work and delaying the release of the 1st call for submissions.
P1026 – Lupin as an Allergen Preparation of draft food regulatory measure and call for submissions 25 months + Completion of assessment delayed due to other work priorities and collection of cost benefit data.

Approval will be delayed to allow Ministers to consider at a face-to-face meeting.
P1027 – Managing Low-level Ag & Vet Chemicals without Maximum Residue Limits Preparation of draft food regulatory measure and call for submissions 23 months + Completion of assessment delayed due to other work priorities and requirement for further consultation with key stakeholders.
P1028 – Infant Formula Products 1st call for submissions (consultation paper) 17 months + 1st call for submissions delayed due to complexity of issues.

Scope of project has been limited to infant formula due to resourcing issues. Timelines have therefore been changed and consultation opportunities reduced.
P1031 – Allergen Labelling Exemptions Assessment, preparation of draft food regulatory measure and call for submissions 11 months + Assessment delayed awaiting further technical information. Targeted consultation resulted in a decision to delay release whilst further information was sourced.
P290 – Food Safety Programs for Catering Operations to the General Public Final Assessment 10 years 1 month + (from date Final Assessment due) Delayed pending further implementation strategy work required by jurisdictions.
P298 – Benzoate & Sulphite Permissions in Food Draft Assessment 9 years 11 months + (from date Final Assessment due) Delayed due to the need to collect further data and evaluation of the data. Also, draft assessment delayed while revised Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) prepared and considered by Office of Best Practice Regulation (OBPR).

1 Variation based on indicative timeframes in the administrative assessment report against timeframe indicated in FSANZ Work Plan as at 30 June.

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

Application / Proposal
Step
Reason
A530 – Permission for English Farmhouse Cheddar made from Raw Milk Initial assessment Received 12 February 2004 – waiting on advice from the applicant following completion of work on raw milk products (P1022).
A531 – Use of Raw Milk in Cheese Production Initial assessment Received 16 February 2004 – waiting on advice from the applicant following completion of work on raw milk products (P1022).
A576 – Labelling of Alcoholic Beverages with a Pregnancy Health Advisory Label Draft assessment Received 17 February 2006 – see Table 5.
A613 – Definitions for Nutritive Substance & Nutritive Ingredient Initial assessment Received 11 August 2007 – awaiting advice from the Applicant and consideration of P1024.
P290 – Food Safety Programs for Catering Operations to the General Public Final assessment Prepared 13 May 2004 – see Table 5.
P298 – Benzoate & Sulphite Permissions in Food Draft assessment Prepared 21 July 2005 – see Table 5.

Forum on Food Regulation reviews

A request for the review of a FSANZ decision to amend the Code must be sought by a majority of members of the Forum, that is, six out of 10. No requests for a review were received in 2014–15.

Table 7: Notification outcomes

2011–12*
2012–13*
2013–14*
2014–15*
Approval decisions notified
22
17
12
18
Final assessment decisions notified
1
0
0
1
Requests for review
1 (4%)
1 (6%)
0 (0%)
0
Review decisions notified
0
2
0
1

* The 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 and statements

The Australian Government, states, territories and the New Zealand Government are generally represented by their Health Ministers (as lead Ministers) on the Forum on Food Regulation (the 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.

One updated guideline on the regulatory management of caffeine in the food supply was notified to FSANZ in 2014–15. We were also notified of a new guideline on the labelling of foods produced or processed using new technologies. A summary of the guideline is available in Appendix 2.

Additional work requested by the Forum

No additional work was requested in 2014–15.

Standards development

Addition of substances to certain foods and use of new technologies

Food additives, processing aids and irradiated fruit and vegetables

Regulatory milestone 2014–15
Number of applications gazetted: 4

During the year, gazettals included the approval of sodium hydrosulphite as a food additive, the irradiation of fruits and vegetables, xylanase (enzyme) as a processing aid, and enzyme nomenclature.

Sulphites and benzoates in food

Regulatory milestone 2014–15
Regulatory impact statement for consultations revised

In 2013, the Office of Best Practice Regulation (OBPR) requested further work on the regulatory impact statement for permissions for benzoates and sulphites in food to clarify the risk associated with exceeding the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) for sulphites.

Since then, FSANZ has strengthened the evidence of the potential cost of adverse health effects in the population exceeding the ADI, commissioned a study on the possible cost of illness due to the health effects of excessive sulphite use, and consulted further with stakeholders on the proposed option and the impacts this may have on business.

Genetically modified (GM) foods

Regulatory milestone 2014–15
Number of GM foods approved and gazetted: 1

We assessed and approved food derived from a genetically modified, herbicide-tolerant cotton line during the year. There are currently four applications (three for corn and one for soybean) under consideration. To date, GM corn lines make up the majority (33%) of GM food approvals listed in the Food Standards Code.

Nutritive substances and novel food

Regulatory milestone 2014–15
Call for submissions to be released in early 2015–16

In 2012, FSANZ commenced a review of nutritive substances and novel foods. This large project addresses the current regulatory approach to whole foods and ingredients which are new to the food supply in Australia and New Zealand. FSANZ has continued to develop the 1st call for submissions, which highlights the current issues associated with the operation of the nutritive substance and novel food provisions in the Code.

We have focussed on developing a potential option where the level of regulatory oversight, and data required to establish safety are commensurate with the risk presented by different types of new foods and ingredients. We expect to release the 1st Call for Submissions in July 2015 and will conduct a series of workshops with stakeholders during an extended consultation period.

We are also reviewing the Code provision for exclusive use of approved novel foods.

Low THC hemp as a food

Regulatory milestone 2014–15
Completed Ministerial review of FSANZ decision to permit the sale of food derived from hemp

Hemp foods are prohibited in the Code. FSANZ reviewed our previous decision to permit foods derived from hemp and submitted this review to the Forum in December 2014. However, the Ministers rejected the FSANZ review report due to concerns about the potential impact of hemp food consumption on oral fluid drug testing (particularly in a police roadside testing context), the marketing of hemp foods (and potential consumer acceptance of illicit marijuana), and levels of cannabidiol (and whether these levels could potentially produce therapeutic effects in hemp foods).

These issues are being investigated by working groups set up by the Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC).

Voluntary addition of vitamin D

Regulatory milestone 2014–15
Permission approved by the FSANZ Board in June 2015

FSANZ assessed and approved an application to permit the addition of vitamin D to breakfast cereals to a maximum claim amount of 2.5 micrograms per normal serve. The statutory timeframe was exceeded because the Forum requested consideration of the Approval Report at one of its biannual face-to-face meetings. In July 2015, the Forum requested a review of FSANZ's decision.

Voluntary addition of vitamins and minerals

Regulatory milestone 2014–15 Assessment commenced on December 2014

FSANZ has commenced assessing an application to permit the voluntary addition of certain vitamins and minerals to nut-based and seed-based beverages, equivalent to the levels permitted for other dairy analogues of cows' milk.

Labelling

Food for infants (minimum age labelling)

Regulatory milestone 2014–15
Proposal rejected by the FSANZ Board in September 2014

Currently, the Code permits infant foods to be labelled as suitable from the age of four months and requires a label statement warning not to feed the product before four months. The infant feeding guidelines of Australia and New Zealand each recommend the introduction of solid food at 'around six months'.

Following completion of a review of the Australian infant feeding guidelines by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), we finalised the proposal by deciding that no change was necessary to current labelling requirements, based on an assessment of all relevant and available evidence across a range of health outcomes. We concluded that introducing solids from four months of age posed no difference in risk to infant health as introducing solids at 'around six months' of age, after consulting widely, including with the NHMRC.

Labelling exemptions (allergens)

Regulatory milestone 2014–15
Call for submissions documentation prepared

FSANZ is working to remove the requirement for mandatory declaration of allergens for fully refined soy oils, tocopherols and phytosterols derived from soy; glucose syrup derived from wheat starch and for distilled alcohol from dairy or wheat components. Completion of this work will lead to considerable benefits for industry by reducing labelling requirements and achieving a greater harmonisation with international trade. Allergic consumers will also be provided with wider food choices.

Nutrition and health claims

Health claims

Regulatory milestone 2014–15
Call for submissions released in August 2014

FSANZ is proposing to more closely align the regulation of health claims on electrolyte drinks and formulated supplementary sports foods with the new nutrition and health claims standard. A variation to the Code would permit these products to carry self-substantiated health claims, but only those related to the intended purpose of providing dietary support in relation to strenuous exercise. We received significant consumer and public health response to the call for submissions and plan to undertake more work to address submitter concerns.

Dietary fibre claims

Regulatory milestone 2014–15
Approved by the FSANZ Board in June 2015

We assessed an application to delay the requirement to comply with the qualifying criteria for nutrition content claims about dietary fibre in the Code, from 18 January 2016 until 18 January 2017. We sought stakeholder views through two rounds of public consultation, which also elicited cost-benefit information to support the assessment. The FSANZ Board considered and approved the draft standard in June 2015 and the Forum has been informed. The new requirements will help reduce compliance costs for some food businesses.

Gluten claims (food containing alcohol)

Regulatory milestone 2014–15
Approved by the FSANZ Board in June 2015

FSANZ considered amending the Code to permit nutrition content claims about gluten in relation to food containing more than 1.15% alcohol by volume to continue to be made when Standard 1.2.7 becomes mandatory on 18 January 2016. A call for submissions was released in December 2014 and 53 submissions were received. All submitters supported the proposed amendment.

Vitamin and mineral claims (food containing alcohol)

Regulatory milestone 2014–15
Calls for submissions in June 2015

We are addressing an anomaly in the conditions for vitamin and mineral claims between Standards 1.2.7 and 1.3.2. We are also considering permitting nutrition content claims about salt and sodium in relation to foods (excluding beverages) containing more than 1.15% alcohol by volume.

Nutrition and health claims (amendments to existing Code provisions)

Regulatory milestone 2014–15
Calls for submissions in May 2015

We addressed some inconsistencies and lack of clarity that resulted from the gazettal of Standard 1.2.7 and associated amendments to other standards in the Code. This includes an exemption of the trademarked elements of the voluntary Health Star Rating (HSR) front-of-pack labelling system from claim requirements in the Code.

Public health

Infant formula products

Regulatory milestone 2014–15
Proposal in progress

FSANZ continues to review Code requirements for infant formula (suitable from birth to <12 months of age), including the regulation of composition, safety and labelling of infant formula only and not other types of infant formula products.

Our aim is to ensure that infant formula remains safe and suitable and also takes account of market developments and the international regulatory context. It will also have regard to the Ministerial Policy Guideline on the Regulation of Infant Formula Products (notified to FSANZ in 2011). Several opportunities will be available for stakeholders to provide comment throughout the life of this major proposal.

Review of food-type dietary supplements (FTDS)

Regulatory milestone 2014–15
Abandonment of the proposal in March 2015

We abandoned this proposal because the market, product range and composition of FTDS have changed since we started work on the Proposal. Changes made to the regulations in the interim, such as for formulated beverages, have generally met the needs of the FTDS industry and consumers.

Of the remaining products, some have been discontinued or reformulated, while others continue to be manufactured under regulations introduced in New Zealand in 20132, a small proportion of which are imported to Australia under the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Arrangement. Current and future changes to the Code in relation to novel foods and sports foods are expected to address any outstanding issues related to addition of substances, except for the maximum limits on vitamins and minerals.

In relation to current products, the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is considering whether a review of the New Zealand Standard is warranted. We retain the option of preparing a new proposal on further trans-Tasman alignment in light of the findings of any New Zealand review.

Lupin as an allergen

Regulatory milestone 2014–15
Call for submissions and draft consultation RIS prepared

There is clinical evidence that lupin is an emerging allergen in Australia. Lupin is increasingly used as a food ingredient in Australian-produced foods, including unpackaged bakery products, as well as imported products. To date, allergic reactions to lupin are unreported in New Zealand. This is likely due to limited exposure to foods containing lupin. As more products containing lupin become available (from Australia or Europe), and awareness of its potential allergenicity increases, this situation is likely to change. FSANZ is considering adding lupin and lupin products to the list of substances subject to mandatory declaration in the Code. FSANZ is preparing a draft call for submissions report.

Food safety

Raw milk products

Regulatory milestone 2014–15
Gazetted amendments to the Code, in February 2015, which permit the sale of another category of raw milk products, under certain conditions

We completed our assessment of a category of raw milk products where properties and/or processing factors may allow the survival of pathogens that may have been present in raw milk, but do not support the growth of these pathogens.

Cyanogenic glycosides in food

Regulatory milestone 2014–15
Call for submissions report completed

FSANZ has been considering ways to manage the acute dietary risk from consumption of raw apricot kernels. We prepared a Decision RIS and draft Approval Report following an extensive consultation with affected parties. These are expected to be tabled to food Ministers in November 2015, when they will consider FSANZ's recommendation to prohibit raw apricot kernels from sale.

Tutin in honey

Regulatory milestone 2014–15
New maximum level for tutin in honey gazetted in January 2015

In January 2015, FSANZ gazetted an amendment to the maximum level (ML) permitted for tutin in honey in the Code. Tutin is a potent neurotoxin that sometimes appears in honey at levels high enough to cause serious health effects in humans (e.g. convulsions). The amendment to the Code sets a new permanent ML of 0.7 mg/kg of tutin for all honey (including comb honey). This has replaced the previous temporary MLs, which were introduced following a poisoning episode in New Zealand in 2008.

The new permanent ML is the culmination of collaborative work by FSANZ and the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries since 2008, to improve the scientific basis for setting a permanent level for tutin in honey. This included characterising the toxin in honey and its distribution and metabolism in humans.

Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE)

Regulatory milestone 2014–15
BSE risk status assigned to three countries, the status of one country upgraded and the status of eight countries reconfirmed

Under the Australia Government's revised policy on bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and importation of beef and beef products FSANZ is responsible for conducting food safety assessments to determine the BSE risk status of countries that seek to export beef and beef products to Australia. FSANZ's country BSE food safety assessment work is overseen by the Australian BSE Food Safety Assessment Committee, made up of experts on animal health, food safety and agricultural systems.

Countries which are 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. To date, FSANZ has received applications for country BSE food safety assessment from sixteen countries.

During the year, we completed BSE food safety assessments for Mexico, the United States and Argentina and assigned these countries a Category 1 BSE risk status. We also reconfirmed the BSE risk status previously assigned to Brazil, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Vanuatu, and upgraded the status of Croatia from Category 2 to Category 1. In February 2015, FSANZ deemed the Republic of Turkey's application for country BSE food safety assessment withdrawn due to insufficient information provided.

We conducted an in-country verification visit to Japan in July 2014, and assessed the effectiveness of BSE controls and preventative systems across the beef production chain. Establishments inspected included slaughtering facilities, feedlots, feed mills, and rendering plants. Significant progress has been made on a country BSE food safety assessment for Japan.

Case study: BSE stakeholder engagement
FSANZ responded to a number of enquiries related to the BSE food safety assessment processes from importers, food industry representatives, authorities of foreign governments and consumers. FSANZ has worked closely with the Department of Agriculture, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade centrally and through country posts, and the Department of Health to prepare 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.

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

Improving our standards development outcomes

Reform of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code

Regulatory milestone 2014–15
Revised Food Standards Code gazetted in April 2015

FSANZ has revised the Food Standards Code, following a review of legal issues, particularly the failure of the former version to provide adequate links to offence provisions in the Food Acts. The revised Code will take effect on 1 March 2016. Further changes to the revised Code are being considered to take effect on that date to take into account variations to the Code occurring between January and March 2015 and to correct errors and inconsistencies.

We are currently consulting with jurisdictions and industry on a number of complex issues which were outside the scope of the original revised Code proposal. These include modernising the technical language, a review of the processing aids standard, traceability through-chain to expedite incident management, application of labelling requirements and a review of the additives standard and related schedules.

Case study: Code review

Our review of the Food Standards Code began in 2013 and was completed in December 2014. We undertook significant consultation with key stakeholders, particularly jurisdictions and industry during this review.

General Manager of the Food Safety and Regulatory Affairs Branch, Peter May presenting the revised Food Standards Code via an on

Image: General Manager of the Food Safety and Regulatory Affairs Branch, Peter May presenting the revised Food Standards Code via an online video. The video was published on the FSANZ website and YouTube channel.

We developed a communication strategy which included the preparation of web information, highlighting the progress of the review and proposed changes to the Code. As the work approached completion in mid-late 2014, FSANZ developed further materials, including questions and answers, a video webinar and comparison documents, so people could easily identify which parts of the Code had changed. These materials were promoted through our social media channels and in publications. We also placed articles in key legal and industry publications.

Further communication activities are planned as the implementation date for the revised Code (1 March 2016) approaches.

Review of Safe Food Australia

Safe Food Australia (SFA) is a guide to three food safety standards that were gazetted in August 2000, replacing existing state and territory food hygiene regulations. The standards introduced nationally consistent requirements for food safety practices, food premises and equipment for the first time.

The guidance was developed because of concern that the new outcomes-based standards may be interpreted differently across jurisdictions. Previous requirements were much more prescriptive.

Following consultation state and territory food enforcement agencies expressed support for a review of SFA and the scope of the review. The agencies indicated improvements could be made to SFA to address current food safety issues and trends, provide more guidance for mobile vendors and home-based vendors and update the scientific evidence referenced in the guide.

FSANZ is now developing a consultation paper, due for release in July 2015, to seek feedback from stakeholders on a review of SFA, particularly from local government and food businesses.

Regulatory impact statements

To ensure a safe food supply and well-informed consumers in Australia and New Zealand, some level of regulation may be required. FSANZ aims to ensure that any regulation is effective and efficient in line with the Government's reducing red tape agenda.

In recent years, we have enhanced our social science capabilities to better understand the behaviour of individuals and groups, allowing us to deliver risk management options informed by behavioural evidence. During the year, we also focussed our attention on developing our economic capacities, to enhance our assessment of the impacts of various management options.

A key output of the renewed focus on regulatory practice has been the development of costing tools that increase the efficiency of how we do our work, while also enhancing the transparency of our work. These include the Cost of Illness Model, Labelling Costing Model, and recently we have commenced work on a Government Cost Model.

Risk advice for imported food

Foods imported into Australia must comply with the Food Standards Code and meet Australian requirements for public health and safety. FSANZ provides risk assessment advice to the Department of Agriculture on food classed as medium-to-high risk when determining the appropriate risk management measures at the Australian border.

FSANZ is reviewing the risk advice on 'risk category' foods (as listed in the Imported Food Control Order 2001) to determine those foods that pose a medium-to-high risk to public health. The first stage of the review was completed in September 2014, comprising 19 risk statements for particular food/hazard combinations. These foods include cooked chicken meat, poultry pâté, cooked pig meat and several uncooked ready-to-eat meat products. The second stage of the review is expected to be published mid-2015 and involves 13 risk statements for specific cheese category/hazard combinations and a risk statement for hydrocyanic acid in ready-to-eat cassava chips.

The review process has identified that the food safety risks of certain food/hazard combinations have changed from the previous advice due to the availability of more recent scientific and import compliance data, as well as refinements being made to some food categories and hazards.

For example, the cheese types and the hazards examined have been broadened to include an expanded range of raw (unpasteurised) milk cheese, following recent changes to the Code. We expect to finalise the complete set of risk statements by April 2016. FSANZ will then move to a rolling review process.

Footnotes

2 New Zealand Food (Supplemented Food) Standard (2013).

 

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