Review of Safe Food Australia
In 2016–17 FSANZ completed the review of Safe Food Australia (2001 edition), the widely used explanatory guide to food safety standards. Broad consultation, particularly with state, territory and local food enforcement agencies, has ensured the information is fit for purpose and based on current scientific evidence and food safety risks. The revised edition was published on the FSANZ website in November 2016. It is available in a mobile-friendly digital format and in hard copy.
In 2009, the then Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council now known as the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation, the Forum commissioned an independent review of food labelling law and policy. In 2011, the Forum agreed on a response to the recommendations of the review report Labelling Logic: Review of Food Labelling Law and Policy (2011) (Labelling Logic).
FSANZ was tasked with action relating to 21 of the 61 recommendations from Labelling Logic.
FSANZ completed work on 10 of the assigned recommendations between 2012–15. Nine other recommendations allocated to FSANZ included work that was complete and/or required a watching brief, or it related to initiatives that were the responsibility of others. FSANZ is assisting with these recommendations as required.
During 2016–17 FSANZ progressed work in response to a recommendation about the labelling of added sugars, added fats and/ or added vegetable oils in the ingredient list (recommendation 12). FSANZ’s technical evaluation and advice was considered by the Forum in November 2016.
FSANZ also completed work on reviewing the need for mandatory labelling of irradiated food (recommendation 34). Targeted and public consultation was undertaken to investigate economic and technical issues and stakeholder views on the requirement.
Findings from existing literature on the impacts of removing mandated food irradiation labelling on consumers, and from a consumer study
on the value of food irradiation labelling to Australian and New Zealand consumers were also included. The report was considered by the Forum in April 2017.
FSANZ has now completed its Labelling Review work program.
In November 2016, in response to FSANZ’s work on labelling review recommendation 12 (ingredient labelling of added sugars, added fats and added vegetable oils), the Forum asked FSANZ, in consultation with the Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC), to prepare a program of work to further investigate labelling approaches for providing information on sugars in food.
The work program was agreed by the Forum at its meeting in April 2017 and includes:
- evidence gathering by FSANZ on consumer understanding and behaviour
- international approaches to sugar labelling
- consideration of the broader policy context for which the Australian Government Department of Health has responsibility.
This work is expected to be presented to the Forum in late 2017.
Since Standard 1.2.7 – Nutrition, Health and Related Claims was gazetted in 2013, FSANZ has been considering whether to include food-health relationships from 32 EU-authorised health claims in the Food Standards Code. These relationships are in addition to 183 food-health relationships from EU-authorised claims that were already in the Food Standards Code when it became law.
In August 2016, FSANZ publicly released decisions about food-health relationships from nine EU-authorised health claims. This work included a systematic review of the evidence for relationships between docosahexanoic acid and normal brain and vision function. Consideration of a further 17 relationships is nearing completion. The review of the currency of three existing high level health claims relationships is also nearing completion.
The Health Claims Scientific Advisory Group met in August and November 2016 to provide expert advice on outcomes from three systematic reviews. FSANZ has also continued to monitor overseas health claims approvals through participation in an international health claims liaison group which includes representatives from the European Food Safety Authority, the United States Food and Drug Administration, Health Canada and the New Zealand Ministry for Primary industries.
In August 2016 the FSANZ Executive approved a five-year plan for an information hub project. The information hub pulls together a number of existing and new activities being undertaken under the FSANZ Communication and Stakeholder Strategy, the ICT Strategy and the Data Management Strategy.
Key parts of the project completed during 2016–17 include the completion of standard operating procedures for how FSANZ manages it data. These procedures include criteria for registering scientific data in a FSANZ data registry and for publication of data sets on our website and on data.gov.au. These developments are in line with the Australian Government Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Open Data Platform Policies.
FSANZ is also reviewing its NUTTAB reference food composition dataset.
The information hub project also aims to strengthen FSANZ’s digital presence. FSANZ undertook user testing of the current website in 2016–17, as well as stakeholder workshops to identify priority areas for improvement. Improvements to the website are planned for 2017–18 as a result of this work.
Notification circulars include notices that are required to be given to the public, submitters and appropriate government agencies under the FSANZ Act. Stakeholders, including applicants, submitters or those who have indicated an interest in a particular application or proposal mentioned in a circular are advised of its publication. Circulars may also mention other matters of interest to FSANZ’s stakeholders including cost recovery information or decisions relating to BSE country categories.
In addition, FSANZ maintains a subscription list of over 5300 stakeholders who have registered to receive alerts when any circular is published. Circulars are published on the FSANZ website. Any applicant, submitter or those who have indicated an interest in a particular application or proposal mentioned in a circular without an email are sent hard copies of the specific circular.
Table 10: Notification circulars published
Food safety hub
FSANZ has consolidated our food safety web pages into a Food Safety Hub, which provides a single access point from the website’s home page. The hub is divided into four main areas:
- standards, guides and other information— outlining the regulatory requirements related to food safety and links to useful guides and fact sheets
- food recalls, incidents and consumer advice—explaining what’s involved in recalling food as well as information for the public on past food incidents and specific food safety topics
- food safety culture—explaining what food safety culture is, why it’s important and how food businesses and regulators can work together to improve it
- featured content—highlighting new publications, videos, key messages, etc.
The hub’s content will be further improved and added to over the coming months, particularly in the area of food safety culture.