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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 2014–15

  • Completed the redevelopment of our dietary modelling capabilities (Harvest) and decommissioned our legacy database, DIAMOND.
  • Further developed FSANZ's strategy for establishing a framework for the way data should be collected, managed, maintained and shared in the agency, including discussions with the FSANZ Board on creating a FSANZ 'information and referral hub'.
  • Incorporated the 2012–13 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey component of the Australian Health Survey into AUSNUT, the national nutrient intakes database.
  • Analysed 62 foods to further improve the quality and robustness of our food composition data holdings.
  • Complied with National Archives of Australia requirements and the Australian Government's Digital Transition Policy and Digital Continuity Plan by adopting an electronic document and records management system.
  • Invested almost $300,000 on staff development during the year—about $3,000 for each staff member.
  • Achieved a social media following of more than 20,000 Facebook (~15,000) and Twitter (~5,000).
  • Reviewed the strategic environment, identified strategic themes for future FSANZ operations and developed a four-year corporate plan that will be updated annually.
  • Reviewed the current hourly charges applied for the cost recovery of application assessments, before a public consultation on a draft Cost Recovery Implementation Statement in the second half of 2015.
  • Continued to consider requests to harmonise maximum residue limits (MRLs) with international MRLs established by Codex or those established in another country.
  • Conducted risk profiling of packaging chemicals to identify any potentially unmanaged risks from chemicals which may migrate from packaging into food.

Science

Strategies and tools

FSANZ Science Strategy 2015–19

FSANZ is developing a new science strategy to identify a range of strategies to develop and enhance our scientific capabilities, tools and partnerships to meet the current and future regulatory needs and challenges of the agency.

To provide a focus for our scientific activities, we have identified three key strategic areas: Scientific Capability; Evidence; and Collaboration. Under each of these areas, we designed initiatives that support continuous improvement and excellence in our food risk analysis capabilities.

Data management strategy

We continued to develop a data management strategy to increase the value of our scientific data, both structured and unstructured. The strategy sets a framework for the way data should be collected, managed, maintained and shared, thereby optimising our capacity for evidence-based decision making.

Under the strategy, to be implemented next year, we will register and describe all scientific data in a single place to make it easy to discover; implement a data governance framework to keep data secure; establish data management roles and responsibilities; and set out business rules for managing scientific data to increase efficiency and accessibility.

Harvest database and modelling tool

We completed redevelopment of FSANZ's dietary modelling platform in 2014–15, allowing us to decommission our legacy dietary modelling database (DIAMOND). The new platform (Harvest) has a range of new features that enhance the efficiency of our work.

Harvest provides us with enhanced and extended dietary modelling capabilities for the Australian and New Zealand populations. We increased the power of Harvest with a major new data set during the year—the New Zealand 2008–09 Adult Nutrition Survey, with associated nutrient, pesticide and contaminant and additive dietary modelling capabilities for this survey. We are currently preparing data from the 2011–12 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (NNPAS) component of the 2011–13 Australian Health Survey (AHS) for incorporation into the Harvest database.

Food composition data

Australian Health Survey

AUSNUT 2011–13, the survey-specific databases developed for estimating nutrient intakes from the 2011–12 NNPAS component of the AHS, was updated in September 2014 to incorporate the 2012–13 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey component of the AHS. This involved validating the survey coding, developing nutrient profiles for foods (including wild caught foods) and dietary supplements, and developing food measures not in the database developed for the NNPAS and associated documentation.

The updated database was used by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to report, in 2015, on food and nutrient intakes for the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

Usual nutrient intakes 2011–12

'Usual intakes' are an estimate of what people 'usually' eat, as opposed to what they reported eating on the particular days they were surveyed. This new analysis of the AHS allows us to better quantify if Australians are consuming the required amount of a variety of nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, protein, fat, and carbohydrates, as well as caffeine and alcohol. Such information will be used to inform food, nutrition and health policies, and food regulatory matters including food fortification.

In partnership with the ABS, we prepared a joint publication on Usual Nutrient Intakes from the 2011–12 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey (NNPAS). Our contribution helped the ABS validate the new methodology developed by the US National Cancer Institute for Australian use. We also helped with validating the results and provided input into, and interpretation of, comparisons of usual nutrient intakes with Australian and New Zealand nutrient reference values.

This was the first time that the ABS has prepared and released a joint publication from one of their surveys. The report and results were released in March 2015 on the ABS website.

2014–15 Food Analytical Program

FSANZ analysed 62 foods to further improve the quality and robustness of our food composition data holdings. The program collected nutrient data on some commonly consumed foods that contribute significantly to the intake of one or more nutrients in the Australian population. We selected foods for analysis based on current data holdings and frequency of consumption in the 2011–13 Australian Health Survey.

We analysed 41 foods to assess levels of naturally occurring vitamin D in a range of animal-based foods. A new method for analysing low levels of vitamin D in unfortified foods has only recently been validated. The new method allowed us to report concentrations of vitamin D in highly consumed foods which would have been below the limit of detection previously.

People

Organisational capability

Organisational reforms

As reported last year, FSANZ undertook major organisational reforms in 2013–14, resulting in voluntary redundancies, a restructuring of the agency and a reassessment of our processes and practices to reduce red tape and improve efficiencies. A change management team established to monitor and communicate the changes was disbanded in September 2014, by which time the staffing arrangements had been fully implemented and the projects dealing with work practices had been incorporated into our core business.

Information and communication technology

FSANZ tested and improved several key collaboration technologies in 2014–15. Our new Unified Communications system is performing above expectations, enabling full video phone interface between staff, regardless of whether they are in the Canberra or Wellington offices. Our SharePoint environment was enhanced to improve the ability to co-author documents and improve desktop sharing. This capability is especially important due to the multiple locations of staff.

Upgrades to our off-site disaster recovery infrastructure have increased the security and capability of the hardware. We added redundancy into our external internet connectivity to allow for outages and strengthened our network firewall, as well as enhancing security at our disaster recovery site.

FSANZ staff are now fully utilising our electronic document and records management system (EDRMS), which was implemented to comply with the Government's Digital Transition Policy and Digital Continuity Plan. The EDRMS utilises our existing SharePoint infrastructure and is able to be fully compliant with National Archives of Australia requirements by utilising the additional functionality of RecordPoint. All records have now been migrated and all new records are being created using this new digital capability.

The system aligns with the National Archives of Australia's administrative functions disposal authority, for the deletion and disposal of records. The EDRMS also allows for staff to create records and documents, while maintaining file security and sharing files both internally and externally. FSANZ's data management strategy was incorporated into the EDRMS to enable easier accessing of information and data. The aim is to have more control over the type and format of new data that we receive and already hold.

Innovation

FSANZ maintained its participation in the Public Sector Innovation Network, supporting the 2014 Innovation Summit and APS Innovation Month. Within the agency, FSANZ's main initiatives were an Executive show-and-tell event for staff to coincide with the International Day for Failure in October—learning from failure being an important facet of innovation—and our 2015 innovation awards.

This year's innovation awards took the form of a problem and ideas challenge for staff, rather than the traditional recognition of achievement which formed the basis of our 2013 awards. Staff members were invited to propose the most pressing problems facing FSANZ at the moment. The Executive selected three of the problems to be put to staff members, who were asked to nominate innovative solutions.

After presentations to staff, the top ideas will be selected by a people's choice vote by staff. The winning individual or team will receive $10,000 towards the implementation of their idea.

Staff Forum

FSANZ's Staff Forum comprises representatives from each section of the agency which 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.

In 2014–15, the Forum took part in distributing information and feedback on the Enterprise Agreement, organisational reforms, Work Level Standards, the introduction of EDRMS and revision of Chief Executive's Instructions and guidance documents.

The Forum proposed a means of staff recognition by the CEO that has been implemented, and successfully advocated for additional stand-up workstations in the Canberra office. The Forum continues to advocate the electronic tracking of Study Leave. The Forum also coordinated communication between staff and Executive on an audit of payroll and on refurbishment options for the Canberra office.

Workplace Consultative Committee

FSANZ's Workplace Consultative Committee ensures effective consultation with employees and their representatives on key workplace issues. By mutual agreement, the committee did not meet in 2014–15 as there were no significant issues that required the intervention of the committee. Other consultative arrangements were used to ensure staff were kept informed of, and participated in, major workplace changes during the year.

Sustainable development

As part of the operations of our 'green' lease, FSANZ monitors building temperatures and works closely with the building owners to ensure the efficiency of the Australian and New Zealand office air conditioning. This limits the overuse of energy during working hours and ensures any issues are identified early and addressed quickly. The building housing the Canberra office is rated 4.5 stars on the National Australian Built Environment Rating System. Some 10% of the energy supplied to the Canberra office is sourced through renewable sources.

Training

As an agency that depends on the skills and knowledge of its people to achieve its objectives, we are committed to maintaining or improving our capabilities in all facets of operation. During the year, we supported staff in a range of professional development activities.

For example, most of the agency's scientific and regulatory staff attended a customised training course delivered by the Crawford School of Public Policy at the Australian National University that conveyed new insights into government policy making and enhanced an understanding of the prevailing food regulatory policy context. Policy skills are particularly germane to our risk management work and to our stakeholder engagement and communication.

Supervisors and managers were also provided with training in managing employees with mental health issues, while all staff were encouraged to participate in online training in mental health first aid.

We spent almost $300,000 on staff development during the year—about $3,000 for each staff member.

FSANZ employment profile

Tables 11–16 summarise FSANZ's employment profile for the year, compared with 2013–14 and with the Australian Public Service (APS). APS statistics were obtained from the APS Statistical Bulletin 2013–14. Data for FSANZ and the APS are at 30 June for the year in question.

Table 11: Total employees

FSANZ
2013–14
APS
2013–14
FSANZ
2014–15
Total employees
112
159,126
108
Total employees (ongoing)
107
145,891
103
Total employees (non-ongoing)
5
13,325
5
New Zealand-based employees (ongoing)
11
n/a
11
New Zealand-based employees (non-ongoing)
0
n/a
2

 

After a significant reduction in the number of employees during 2013–14, the numbers stabilised a little in 2014–15. Continuing APS interim recruitment arrangements resulted in the slowing down of recruitment and fewer employees left the agency. The agency also managed with fewer non-ongoing employees than usual.

Table 12: Stability and mobility

FSANZ
2013–14
APS
2013–14
FSANZ
2014–15
New starters (% employees ongoing)
0.9% (1 person)
3.2%
8.7% (9 people)
New starters (% employees non-ongoing)
5.4% (6 people)
n/a
4.6% (5 people)
Separations (% employees ongoing)
15.9% (17 people)
7.5%
5.9% (6 people)
Retention rate (% ongoing employees)
87.0% (100 people)
92.5%
90.3% (93 people)
Staff promoted (ongoing)
1.8% (2 people)
3.5%
4.9% (5 people)

 

Following the process of restructuring at the end of 2013–14, FSANZ recruited a number of staff in 2014–15 to meet key skill needs. Our retention rate increased again, with most separations occurring because of employees retiring. Despite the recruitment restrictions, FSANZ was able to promote some staff to vacancies that arose over the year.

Table 13: Workforce diversity

FSANZ
2013–14
APS
2013–14
FSANZ
2014–15
Indigenous Australian employees
0.0%
2.3%
0.0%
Employees with disability
3.6%
(4 people)
3.3%
2.8%
(3 people)
NESB1 (employees in Australia)
6.3%
(7 people)
5.5%
5.6%
(6 people)
Women
67.9%
(76 people)
57.5%
66.7%
(72 people)
Non-ongoing employees
4.5%
(5 people)
8.4%
4.6%
(5 people)
Part-time employees (ongoing)
20.5%
(23 people)
15.2%
23.1%
(25 people)
Part-time employees (non-ongoing)
1.8%
(2 people)
63.9%
2.8%
(3 people)
Part-time female employees
20.5%
(23 people)
27.0%
22.2%
(24 people)
Part-time male employees
1.8%
(2 people)
8.3%
3.7%
(4 people)

 

FSANZ has a specialised workforce and targets 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 people from non-English speaking backgrounds in our workforce than the APS average. We will continue, in 2015–16, to encourage employees to report their diversity status, as a large proportion of employees have not already done so.

We continue to employ a higher proportion of women than the broader APS—almost 67%. We continue to support flexible working arrangements for staff, with part-time employment numbers (23.1%) being significantly higher than the rest of the APS.

Table 14: Workforce experience

FSANZ
2013–14
APS
2013–14
FSANZ
2014–15
New starters (% all employees)
6.3%
(7 people)
6.7%
8.3%
(9 people)
Average length of service in APS (ongoing)
12.2 years
9.4 years
12.1 years
Average length of service in APS (non-ongoing)
2.7 years
n/a
3.7 years

 

The percentage of new starters increased to 8% in 2014–15 from 6% in 2013–14. Many of these new starters brought significant APS and workplace experience to FSANZ. Despite a number of our more experienced employees departing over the last 18 months, FSANZ has a workforce with relatively more experience than the average for the APS overall.

Table 15: Ageing workforce

FSANZ
2013–14
APS
2013–14
FSANZ
2014–15
Employees >55yo (% employees)
26.8%
(30 people)
16.6%
25.0%
(27 people)
Separations of ongoing >55yo (% employees)
7.0% (9 people)
2.9%
3.7% (4 people)
Separations of non-ongoing >55yo (% employees)
0.0% (0 people)
n/a
0.0% (0 people)
Re-engagement of non-ongoing >55yo (% of age group)
0.0%
n/a
3.7% (1 person)

 

The average age of our workforce has not changed significantly over the past 12 months, as two-thirds of ongoing employees leaving the agency were over 55. However, we have a much larger proportion of staff in the over-55 group than in the wider APS. The mean age of FSANZ employees is 46.7, compared with the mean APS age of 43 years.

Table 16: Classification structure

FSANZ
2013–14
APS
2013–14
FSANZ
2014–15
Classification structure (% employees)
APS levels
37.5% (42 people)
71.2%
34.3% (37 people)
EL levels
58.0% (65 people)
27.0%
62.0% (67 people)
SES
4.5% (5 people)
1.8%
3.7% (4 people)

 

Due to the nature of FSANZ's work, involving large numbers of Executive Level employees with specialist scientific and technical skills, the proportion of APS-level employees (34.3%) is significantly less than the APS average of 71.2%.

Employment environment

Enterprise Agreement

FSANZ is in the process of negotiating a new Enterprise Agreement, consistent with the Australian Government's Public Sector Workplace Bargaining Policy. The 2011–2014 FSANZ Enterprise Agreement will remain in operation until it is replaced by a new agreement.

Work health and safety

FSANZ's Health and Safety Committee comprises representatives of management, the facilities team, work health and safety monitors, first aid officers and workplace harassment contact officers. During the year, the committee considered a range of issues impacting on the health and safety of staff, in particular follow-up activities emanating from an audit of work health and safety—for example, building maintenance, storage and amenity issues.

In the 2014 APS employee census, 82% of our staff members agreed that 'FSANZ genuinely cares about employees being healthy and safe at work', a measure 16% above the average for the APS.

Workplace wellness

FSANZ supports a range of activities designed to contribute to the wellness of staff, including subsidising lunchtime yoga sessions and providing access to standing workstations, which are now spread throughout the agency. We also continued our practice of providing a free on-site influenza vaccination program and hearing tests for employees.

We facilitated teleworking by a number of our people and generally supported flexible working arrangements. As a result, we have a relatively high proportion of staff who are part-time and who purchase additional leave each year in order to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Workplace bullying and harassment

Trained harassment contact officers continued to assist employees who feel they may have been bullied or harassed. In 2014–15, no formal complaints were made under the bullying and harassment guidelines, despite about 16% of employees indicating they had been subject to bullying and harassment in the 2014 APS employee census. This percentage is marginally lower than the APS average.

Workplace diversity and disability

During the year, we finalised the Workplace Diversity Plan of our People Strategy. Because we are a small agency, with a need for specialist skills, we have historically had some difficulty in adequately establishing diversity in our workforce. The 2014 APS employee census indicated only 50% of staff believed that FSANZ is committed to creating a diverse workforce. Implementation of the diversity plan over the coming months will address the issue.

FSANZ currently has only a few employees who identify as being from a diverse background, as defined by the APSC.

Our Deputy CEO is also the agency's Disability Champion, thereby signalling the importance of disability issues to senior management. We focussed our initiatives on providing workplace adjustments for people with disability. We also became a Bronze Member of the Australian Network on Disability and have already benefited from advice and training from this organisation.

Rewards and recognition

Recognition of achievement provides an incentive for high performance in FSANZ. During the year, we honoured three staff members for their contribution to the work of the agency:

  • Chair's Annual Development Award – awarded to Ms Hazel Fowler for delivering work of consistently high standard, and displaying a keen eye for detail and a thoroughness that is demanded by a scientific organisation. Her recent achievements include the nationally representative study of consumers' attitudes and behaviours to both voluntary and mandatory fortification and undertaking key reviews of the literature for projects in dispute over consumer behaviour, including age labelling for infant foods, nutrition content claims and behavioural aspects of infant formula.
  • Australia Day Medallion – awarded to Dr Dorothy Mackerras for helping to change the FSANZ culture and approach to nutritional science, bringing a strong data-driven focus, an inquiring and questioning mind and introducing a new set of skills and methodologies, including the use of epidemiological techniques. She has also made significant contributions to developing the nutrient profiling scoring criterion, which underpins our health claims system, and to the substantiation of the food-health relationships, as part of the health claims framework.
  • Pikorua Bone Pendant (symbolising Waitangi Day) – awarded to Dr Diane Bourn for significant contributions to the completion of a new food standard for nutrition, health and related claims—a lengthy, complex project. Dr Bourn also played an instrumental role in developing FSANZ responses to the recommendations of the Labelling Logic report on food labelling.

Senior management

In 2014–15, FSANZ's four-member executive team comprised the Chief Executive Officer, Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Chief Scientist, General Manager Food Standards, and General Manager Food Safety and Regulatory Affairs.

FSANZ risk assessment and risk management functions were conducted in different branches to separate these activities. In addition, a Chief Public Health and Nutrition Advisor provided strategic advice to FSANZ on public health and nutrition matters.

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 Branch 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 (which includes two staff members who separated from FSANZ in June 2014) received performance bonuses totalling $121,598 and 20 employees received performance payments totalling $148,783.

In 2014–15, FSANZ's executive team comprised:

Steve McCutcheon—Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

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.

Dr Marion Healy—Deputy CEO and Chief Scientist

Dr Healy has executive responsibility for the agency's risk assessment activities involving chemical, microbiological and nutritional analyses. She is also responsible for the agency's innovation and reform function, strategic science, food surveillance and monitoring, food composition and consumption studies, dietary modelling, and information and communication technology.

Dean Stockwell—General Manager Food Standards

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, special purpose foods 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 Food Safety 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, food safety and primary production and processing standards, food recall and response coordination and parliamentary and ministerial liaison. He also has executive oversight of communication and stakeholder engagement, parliamentary and ministerial liaison, and operations, including human resource management.

Communication

In 2014–15, FSANZ's social media audience grew to more than 20,000, with more than 15,000 people liking our Facebook page and more than 5,000 following us on Twitter. These social media channels are proving increasingly important and provide valuable opportunities to inform and educate. Comments and questions from followers provide FSANZ with an opportunity to provide science-based information and to correct misinformation.

Our website also continues to evolve, attracting about one million visitors each year. About half of these visitors are people who have visited the website previously. Our web analytics indicate the repeat visitors are predominantly industry representatives, using online tools such as NUTTAB (food composition data tables) and the Nutrition Panel Calculator.

We continued to operate a strong program of interacting with our international scientific colleagues at conferences and expert meetings, as well as supporting professional associations and universities in Australia and New Zealand through speaking engagements (Appendix 8).

Case study: Raw bath milk

In December 2014, the media reported on the death of a toddler as a result of drinking unpasteurised milk marketed as bath milk.

FSANZ collaborated with enforcement agencies in the food regulatory system to develop materials stressing the risks of drinking unpasteurised milk. Fortunately, FSANZ had previously conducted a risk assessment as part of a proposal looking at raw milk products (cheeses). The risk assessment concluded that the risks from raw milk were too great to consider changing or removing processing requirements in the Food Standards Code that require that milk is pasteurised (or equivalently processed) to eliminate disease-causing bacteria that may be present. Our communication focused on this risk assessment, but linked to more general warnings for consumers by the NSW Food Authority.

The benefits of social media were demonstrated in this incident, with opportunities for FSANZ to provide scientific advice and, in one case, a history lesson on the development of pasteurisation as a process for mitigating the risks from raw milk.

Stakeholder publications

Our hard copy and online publications remain popular. The publications page on our website attracted more than 80,000 unique views in 2014–15. Our most popular publications (based on online statistics) are a mix of consumer and industry publications. The Safe Food Australia publication is consistently the most popular publication for industry, while the Listeria and food brochure remains popular among consumers. We also distributed more than 13,000 hard copies of the Listeria and food brochure during the year.

One of our key industry publications is the Food Industry Recall Protocol. We revised and republished this publication and distributed more than 5,000 copies during the year.

FSANZ regularly publishes risk assessments and other scientific publications. For example, this year we published a number of technical documents associated with our work on recommendations relating to an independent review of food labelling. These included a Systematic Review of the Evidence for a Relationship between Trans-fatty Acids and Blood Cholesterol and a Narrative Review – The Relationship between Dietary Trans-fatty acids and Adverse Health Outcomes.

Industry and consumer advice

FSANZ plays a key role in the food regulatory system in coordinating food recalls and food incidents. We also play a role in food surveillance, working with other jurisdictions to undertake surveillance activities like the Australian Total Diet Study. Our advice to stakeholders also often relates to our standards development work, and risk assessments can lead us to develop advice for either consumers or industry.

In early 2015, FSANZ, and other food regulatory bodies in Australia, was faced with a significant communication challenge following a national recall involving frozen berries. In a rapidly evolving situation, our social media tools and web presence proved invaluable. At the height of the recall FSANZ's recall posts on social media had an estimated reach of more than 350,000.

We also published our risk assessment advice to the Australian Department of Agriculture.

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. FSANZ's functions are outlined in section 13 of the Act. These legislative requirements determine the way FSANZ does its core business.

FSANZ's 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. FSANZ's outputs—food standards—provide the food industry with the regulatory framework for conducting business, but the ultimate beneficiaries of FSANZ's work are the Australian and New Zealand populations.

As described in the Corporate Plan 2012–15, FSANZ operates 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 FSANZ's 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. FSANZ reports against the deliverables and key performance indicators of Program 1.1 in the section on priorities and performance in this report.

FSANZ's priorities for 2015–16, in addition to applications and proposals on the FSANZ work plan (see website), are listed in Table 17.

Table 17: High priority projects for 2015–16

FSANZ work area
Projects
Strategic imperative
(2013–15 Corporate Plan)
Food labelling
  • Labelling Review projects
  • Health claims transition
  • Allergen labelling exemptions
Support informed consumer decisions about food by collecting and providing relevant information.
Public health
  • Lupins as an allergen
  • Review of imported foods risk list
  • Review of infant formula regulation
Regulatory burden reduction
  • Code revision (transition to implementation on 1 March 2016)
  • Reform initiatives
Build and sustain food standards and practices to support high standards of public health protection and a dynamic and sustainable food manufacturing sector.
Chemical food safety
  • Cyanogenic glycosides
  • Nutritive substances and novel foods
  • Sulphites and benzoates
Microbiological food safety
  • Review of microbiological limits
  • BSE country assessments
Food incidents and recalls
  • Incident response
  • Food recalls
Maintain a transparent and evidence-based approach to regulation and the management of food risks.
Strategic science
  • Science strategy development
  • Data management as part of an information hub
Evidence-base development
  • Nutrient chemical projects
  • Food packaging
  • Tools for economic analysis

Regulatory partners

FSANZ is one of three elements of the food regulatory system. The Australia 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 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. We are currently involved in a New Zealand intergovernmental group, comprising representatives of agencies involved in regulating genetically modified organisms in New Zealand, which is providing advice on the review of the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms (Organisms Not Genetically Modified) Regulations 1998.


Governance and parliament

Contact with ministers and their offices throughout the year related to information, parliamentary-related functions and providing public affairs support.

FSANZ performance

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
2014–15
25
0
0
0
0
25
5
100%
0%
0%
0%
0%
100%
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%

 

FSANZ also provided input into correspondence on a number of matters relating to FSANZ responsibilities, but which were the responsibility of the Department of Health or other departments in the Australian Government or state and territory governments.

Issues raised in the correspondence included general food safety issues, food additives including aspartame, food recalls, labelling issues including use-by dates and country of origin, chemical maximum residue limits, imported food issues, camel milk, bisphenol A and genetically modified food.

Ministerial submissions
Sent
Returned
2014–15
22
17
2013–14
22
19
2012–13
26
26

Issues raised in submissions included FSANZ Board outcomes, BSE risk assessments, release of surveys, food recall issues, staff and Board travel to New Zealand, staff travel overseas and cost recovery.

Briefing note requests
Received
Sent
Late
2014–15
5
5
0
2013–14
3
3
0
2012–13
4
4
0

 

FSANZ responded to briefing note requests on a number of matters relating to our responsibilities and provided input into briefings which were the responsibility of the Department of Health or other departments. Issues included additives, labelling, fortification, food-borne outbreaks, maximum residue limits, surveys, meetings with peak organisations and genetically modified food.

Parliamentary Questions on Notice
Received
Sent
Late
2014–15
2
0
0
2013–14
0
0
0
2012–13
0
0
0

 

FSANZ also provided input into a very small number of answers to questions on notice (outside of the Estimates process) being managed by the Department of Health.

Senate Estimates

Senior staff members were required to appear before Senate Estimates on three occasions during the year (October 2014, February 2015 and June 2015). Issues raised during the hearings and in subsequent questions on notice included FSANZ's technical input into the responses to the Blewett labelling review recommendations, nanotechnology, health claims on formulated supplementary sports foods and electrolyte drinks (Proposal P1030), food irradiation, zoonotic diseases in and testing of kangaroo meat, hepatitis A in frozen imported berries, FSANZ's assessment processes, maximum residue limits and testing of imported food.

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

Question Time briefings

Question without notice are asked of ministers in Question Time in the Parliament and must be responded to orally. Briefings are prepared by FSANZ to help the Minister respond to any questions that fall within his or her responsibilities, known as Question Time Briefings (QTBs). These briefings are also kept current between Parliamentary Sittings to provide advance assistance to the Minister in dealing with urgent or controversial issues.

FSANZ prepared six QTBs. 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 imported food, raw milk products, food packaging, genetically modified food safety, MRLs and country of origin labelling.

Parliamentary inquiries

FSANZ made a submission to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee's Inquiry into the provisions of the Competition and Consumer Amendments (Deregulatory and Other Measures) Bill 2015.

FSANZ appeared before the New Zealand Parliamentary Select Committee on Primary Production inquiry into a petition calling for labels on all foods containing ingredients derived from genetic engineering techniques, and a freeze on all GM approvals by FSANZ, and that the House pass legislation to implement these requests. Officials from the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries and Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade were also present.

FSANZ Board

FSANZ is governed by a twelve-member Board drawn from Australia and New Zealand, who have a wide range of expertise and experience in food matters. Nine Australian members are appointed by the Australian Assistant Minister for Health, in consultation with the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation (Forum), following consultation with the Australian, state, territory and New Zealand governments and consideration by the Cabinet. 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. Details of the qualifications of Board members and their attendance at meetings are summarised in Appendix 1.

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 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 2014–15, with the outcomes published on FSANZ's website.

Ethical standards

The Board Charter includes guidelines for dealing with directors' conflicts of interest and material personal interests as required by the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013 and the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Rule 2014.

Board performance

The Board Charter includes a requirement that a formal review of the performance of the Board be undertaken biennially. The review is conducted using a mix of external evaluation and facilitated self-assessment, with appropriate input sought from Board members, the CEO, internal and external auditors, management and any other relevant stakeholders, as determined by the Board.

Along with the biennial review, two Board members undertake an evaluation at alternate meetings. The Chair 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, and 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 2014–15, FARMC, under the chairmanship of Dr Dave Roberts, continued to monitor the corporate governance and risk management activities of the agency, 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 in 2014–15 related to the management of the transition to the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, review of workplace diversity and disability and review of ICT procurement.

Remuneration and Senior Staff Committee

The Remuneration and Senior Staff Committee of the Board meets infrequently to consider issues such as the 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.

FSANZ commenced a recruitment search for a Chief Executive Officer and a General Manager Food Standards (Wellington). The second term of office of Mr Steve McCutcheon, our current CEO, finishes at the end of October 2015 and Mr Dean Stockwell, our current General Manager in New Zealand, retired on 30 June 2015.

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 $2.085m on consultants and contractors during the year on services and products costing more than $10,000 (see Appendix 7 for details).

Corporate planning

Before the enactment of the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013, there was no statutory requirement for agencies to prepare a corporate plan. FSANZ's current Corporate Plan 2012–15 was prepared as a matter of good corporate practice and followed a guideline established by the Australian National Audit Office.

In 2014–15, the FSANZ Board conducted a review of the strategic environment and identified strategic themes for future FSANZ operations. This work has led to the development of Corporate Plan 2015–19, which will be published on the FSANZ website.

FSANZ's Risk Management Framework and Governance Framework were revised to form a suite of documents aligned with the Corporate Plan and the Portfolio Budget Statement.

The Board's strategic intent for 2015–19 is:

  • reposition FSANZ as a trusted source of expert advice for food regulation and policy development
  • build on our scientific and technical expertise
  • build on established links with trusted experts and counterparts
  • enhance stakeholder engagement
  • focus on efficiency and effectiveness.

FSANZ will focus on three main areas of core business:

  • develop food regulatory measures or contribute to other control measures using the risk analysis process
  • coordinate recalls, manage food incidents and conduct surveillance and monitoring
  • provide food-related scientific and technical advice and information.

Fraud control plan

The FSANZ fraud control plan is in its last year of operation and will be renewed in 2015–16. The plan outlines the process and procedures FSANZ undertakes to limit fraud risk in the agency. Reports on fraud risk mitigation are regularly provided to FARMC to ensure that the current risk management activities, such as separation of duties and the credit card purchasing guidelines, are effective in addressing fraud risk.

Cost recovery arrangements

Fees are payable for assessing applications, where the development or variation of a standard would confer an exclusive capturable commercial benefit on an applicant. An applicant may also elect to pay a fee to expedite the start of the consideration of an application.

Following amendments to the FSANZ Regulations, current hourly charges for the general procedure were applied to applications to vary high level health claims from 1 June 2015.

We are reviewing the current hourly charges applied for cost recovery and intend to hold a public consultation on a draft Cost Recovery Implementation Statement in the second half of 2015.

Anticipation

Maximum residue limits

FSANZ continues to consider requests to harmonise maximum residue limits (MRLs) with international MRLs established by Codex or those established in another country. Requests from stakeholders for the 2014 MRL proposal are now gazetted. This year, FSANZ developed and published a guide for MRL proposals to help requesters and to streamline the MRL harmonisation proposal process.

Work has commenced on requests received for the 2015 MRL proposal. The value of the guide was demonstrated by the quality and completeness of the requests received for the proposal. The anticipated timelines for the 2015 MRL proposal are on the FSANZ website and have been communicated widely to stakeholders.

Nanotechnology

FSANZ is progressing work on reviewing the application of nanotechnologies to existing food additives which are relatively insoluble for which permissions exist in the Code. The review will also cover nanotechnology and food packaging. FSANZ continues to monitor nanotechnology issues, international regulatory activities and participates in the national inter-governmental health, safety and environment working group.

Chemical migration from packaging into food

A proposal has been raised to address potential health risks resulting from the migration of chemicals from packaging into food (CMPF) and to establish whether current management measures used by industry are adequate or if there is a demonstrated need for FSANZ to amend requirements in the Code.

FSANZ released its first public consultation paper on CMPF in late 2014. The paper presented an overview of the packaging supply chain, potential public health issues associated with CMPF, and the range of control measures which address chemical migration. Questions were posed to gather information about the size and range of the food packaging market, what packaging is used and what standards and practices packaging manufacturers and food manufacturers are using to manage any risks relating to this issue.

Risk profiling of packaging chemicals is underway to identify any potentially unmanaged risks from chemicals which may migrate from packaging into food. This will provide a focus for future risk assessment activities. This work, together with an analysis of market intelligence data and knowledge on the uptake of control measures, will provide a sound basis for the future direction of Proposal P1034 and any subsequent risk management activities.

 

​Last section Chapter 3 Collecting and providing
relevant consumer information
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