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Chief Executive Officer's review

Image of FSANZ CEO Steve McCutcheon

This is the first annual report against the objectives and performance measures of the first corporate plan developed under the Public Governance, Performance and Accountability Act 2013. The 2015–16 Corporate Plan has provided an opportunity to set out more clearly the purpose and objectives of FSANZ as laid out in our enabling legislation.

The community has a high expectation of FSANZ. That expectation creates a conundrum, as FSANZ is a world-leading provider of evidence-based advice about food composition and food safety, but is invested with no regulatory powers or enforcement functions. FSANZ has an important, yet circumscribed, role in supporting the operation of a complex inter-jurisdictional food regulatory system, that engages many distinct jurisdictions. It has the objectives of building consumer confidence in the quality and safety of food; regulating effectively, efficiently and transparently; providing adequate information about food for consumers to make informed choices; and achieving consistency in Australia and New Zealand, as well as internationally.

FSANZ's purpose is to support food regulation in Australia and New Zealand. We do this by developing food regulatory measures, providing evidence-based advice, coordinating regulatory responses, and providing information about food standards. We work with other agencies to provide a coordinated regulatory and information environment.

FSANZ responds to the demands of the Australian and New Zealand communities by building our reputation as a trusted, expert source of advice and information, and exerting a greater influence in the development of food regulation policy.

Regulatory and non-regulatory highlights

Progress on regulatory-related projects is discussed elsewhere in this report, so I will highlight the more complex and time consuming of the year's activities. Each of these projects brought to completion a considerable body of work.

The revised Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code commenced on 1 March 2016. The review, completed in 2014–15, removed legal ambiguities and uncertainties which had hindered the adoption of Code provisions by Australian states and territories into their food acts. The introduction of the revised Code was quite seamless.

The full commencement of the nutrition content, health and related claims standard in January 2016 was another great milestone. This, too, came into force relatively smoothly. FSANZ will continue to assess a number of European Union health claims, before we can rule a line under this project.

FSANZ was asked to make a variation to the Food Standards Code to remove the country-of-origin labelling standard, to be replaced by a new standard under Consumer Law. This work was done expeditiously and completed in June 2016.

The final country food safety assessment for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) was completed in June 2016. This completes the program of food safety assessments to determine the BSE risk status of countries that seek to export beef products to Australia. FSANZ will, of course, continue to review the BSE categorisation accorded to each country on an annual basis to ensure they remain appropriate.

Finally, three longstanding projects — cyanogenic glycosides in raw apricot kernels, allergen exemption labelling, and benzoates and sulphites in food — were completed. Each of these projects had its own unique scientific challenges requiring comprehensive consultation with affected stakeholders before a final determination was made by FSANZ.

National coordination

FSANZ coordinated 98 food recalls, well above the long-term annual average of around 60. It also coordinated the response under the National Food Incident Response Protocol concerning Salmonella in mung bean sprouts. During the year, FSANZ provided significant leadership around training and awareness for government agency food incident responses, including a simulation exercise. In conjunction with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and Department of health, we established a new Food Incident Forum, which includes industry members, to strengthen response capability.

FSANZ continued to lead the national coordination of surveillance and monitoring of the food supply. Specific projects completed included the second stage of the 24th Australian Total Diet Study, analytical surveys for scheduled pharmaceuticals in foods intended for weight loss, and post-mandatory fortification levels of folic acid, iodine and thiamine in certain Australians.

Information and advice

FSANZ completed two of the three remaining projects assigned to it in the whole-of-government response to the final report of the Food Labelling Review —Labelling Logic.

Data collection and management continued to be a major focus of the organisation during the year. Good progress was made on Harvest Phase 4, with this food composition project on track for its scheduled completion at the end of 2016. The most recent consumption data for the Australian population, the 2011–12 National Nutrition and Physical Activity Survey data, was fully integrated into Harvest and is now being incorporated into FSANZ's usual business of dietary exposure assessments. FSANZ also completed a major contract with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)to determine the amount of added sugars consumed by Australians.

Organisational structure

A significant event in the life of FSANZ was the conclusion of the term of appointment of Ms Philippa Smith, AM, as Chair of the FSANZ Board on 30 June 2016. Ms Smith's strategic leadership and rapport with stakeholders over eight years has left FSANZ in a strong position for the next Board Chair to inherit.

Also at the Board level, we said farewell to Mr Neil Walker, JP, one of our three New Zealand-appointed members, at the end of June 2016. Sadly, we also saw the sudden passing of Dr Dave Roberts, a Board member since 2009. Dr Roberts' loss was a huge blow to the Board and deeply felt across the organisation.

Dr Marion Healy, Deputy Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Chief Scientist, moved from FSANZ to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in February 2016. Dr Healy's commitment to scientific excellence and her broader contribution to FSANZ's executive leadership team were the defining characteristics of her second period of employment at FSANZ.

Mr Glen Neal was appointed to the position of General Manager Food Standards, based in our Wellington office, in August 2015. Dr Scott Crerar and Dr Trevor Webb commenced in fixed-term general manager roles in July 2015 and February 2016 respectively.

Concluding remarks

In the 2014–15 Annual Report, I advised that I would not be seeking reappointment as CEO of FSANZ and was intending to finish in October 2015, after two four-year terms. I was subsequently persuaded to remain with the organisation for a further period of time to allow the CEO recruitment process to run its full course, and to facilitate the transition to a new FSANZ Board Chair. With those processes well in train, I therefore expect this to be my final annual report.

I would like to acknowledge the wonderful support and efforts of many people who, collectively, make FSANZ the effective agency it is today. Many of these people are in other government agencies, industry and other non-government organisations, academia and the community at large. Others are closer to home, within my staff and on the FSANZ Board.

Thank you to everyone who has made my tenure as CEO of FSANZ professionally rewarding and personally such a pleasure. I commend this Annual Report as a true record of FSANZ's activities and outcomes for 2015–16.

 
Steve McCutcheon

Chief Executive Officer

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