The Newsletter of the Food Regulation Secretariat - Issue 5 Sept 2006

An initiative of the Australian Federal, State and Territory and New Zealand Governments

Page last updated: 08 October 2013

PDF printable version of the Newsletter of the Food Regulation Secretariat Issue 5 September 2006 (PDF 59 KB)

Issue 5 September 2006
ISBN: 0 642 82515 7

Current projects and reviews

Stakeholder Consultation Forum

The 2006 Stakeholder Consultation Forum was held in Adelaide on 4 April 2006. A total of 83 representatives from public health, consumer, industry and government sectors attended. Stakeholders noted there had been a number of improvements since the previous forum in 2004 and raised several potential improvement opportunities in relation to the food policy development process including the need for:
  • a strategic approach to the identification of future policy issues;
  • improved coordination and methods of consultation;
  • early consideration of implementation requirements when a policy guideline is being developed;
  • increased transparency for decision-making with regard to the finalisation of a policy guideline;
  • greater consistency in the implementation and enforcement of policies between jurisdictions; and
  • increased training and education in the area of food safety, which applies to people working in the food industry, consumers and regulators.
Stakeholders identified several topics that were perceived to be potential policy issues in the future, and these included:
  • the relationship between food regulation and public health;
  • the food/medicine interface;
  • new technologies in food development;
  • the interface between fresh and processed foods;
  • maximum residue limits (MRLs), particularly in relation to international MRLs;
  • organic foods; and
  • food handling and safety.
The Forum report outlines the general themes and specific issues raised during the day and is scheduled to be considered by the Ministerial Council in October 2006. The report is available from the Food Regulation Secretariat website.
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FSANZ Act amendments

Since the Ministerial Council agreed to a number of measures to expedite FSANZ’s assessment and approval processes and better protect commercially valuable information in October 2005 and February 2006, the Department of Health and Ageing has been consulting with government officials from both Australia and New Zealand on the proposed implementation of agreed measures.
Public consultation took place between 22 March and 27 April 2006 and much valuable feedback was received. This feedback is assisting the Department to develop drafting instructions for submission to the Office of Parliamentary Council in preparation for the potential introduction of a draft bill later this year.

Review of the Food Regulation Agreement

In response to the recommendations of the Food Regulation Review (the Blair Report) the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to a new food regulatory system in November 2000. An Inter-Governmental Agreement (the Agreement) was signed in 2000 (Amended 2002) that gave effect to this system. This Agreement represents a commitment by the inter-governmental signatories to the implementation of a co-operative national system of food regulation.

The Agreement required a review of its effectiveness to be conducted no later than five years after its commencement. To ensure that the new regulatory arrangements for food had been operating for a sufficient period of time to make the review meaningful, the Ministerial Council recommended the review be completed by 31 December 2006.

The Ministerial Council endorsed the Terms of Reference for this review at its meeting on 31 March 2005. The main focus of this review is to assess the:
  • extent to which the stated purpose of the Agreement, to give effect to a national approach to food regulation within Australia, has been achieved; and
  • relevance of the wording of the current Agreement.
A consultation has been conducted and completed and the report is to be considered by the Ministerial Council in October 2006. The Ministerial Council is due to report on the review findings to COAG in December 2006.

Review of the Treaty between Australia and New Zealand

The review of the Food Regulation Agreement (FRA) triggers a review of the Treaty between Australia and New Zealand. The Treaty establishes the joint food system between the two countries.

The review of the Treaty commenced in January 2006. The aim of the Treaty review is to provide a report on the effectiveness of the Treaty, and to comment on the progress that has been made against achieving the objectives of the Treaty.

It is expected that a draft report will be considered by Ministers representing the governments of Australia and New Zealand in the last quarter of 2006.
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Country of Origin Labelling

On 5 May 2006 the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council decided not to further explore extending Country of Origin Labelling to specify the country of origin of each individual component in packaged food that includes two or less whole fruit or vegetable products, such as peas and carrots mixed together.

This decision was based on the findings of a feasibility study carried out by Food Standards Australia New Zealand. This study found that the cost of further extending Country of Origin Labelling outweighed the benefits. In calculating the benefit to consumers of extending Country of Origin Labelling, Food Standards Australia New Zealand drew on two consumer surveys from Australia, two surveys from the UK and research articles from both Australia and the USA.

This decision will not affect the Ministerial Council’s earlier decision made in December 2005 to strengthen Country of Origin Labelling requirements progressively through 2006-2007

As a result, from December 2006, Country of Origin laws will also apply to unpackaged fresh pork and pork products such as ham and bacon, and, as of June 2006, imported foods need to be labelled specifically with their country of origin rather than just stating that the food is imported.

The Australian Government continues to support the development of a voluntary ‘Australian Grown’ labelling scheme and is establishing a working group to develop recommendations for a voluntary scheme that would better reflect the content of packaged foods.

Appointments

In May 2006 the Australian Government Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, the Hon Christopher Pyne, announced the reappointment of three members of the Board of Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). These members were the Hon Rob Knowles, who will continue as Chair of the Board for a further two years, and Ms Hikihiki Pihema and Mr Owen Symmans, who were reappointed for terms of three and two years respectively. Ms Pihema and Mr Symmans are two of the three New Zealand appointees to the FSANZ Board.

The reappointment of these members to the board of FSANZ maintains the strong representation of public health, food science and technology, human nutrition and consumer issues on the FSANZ Board.

The reappointment of Mr Knowles was made with the agreement of the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council (Ministerial Council) and the reappointments of Ms Pihema and Mr Symmans were noted by the Ministerial Council in accordance with the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991
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Mandatory fortification

In May 2004, the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council (Ministerial Council) asked Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) to consider the mandatory fortification of food with folic acid to reduce the incidence of neural tube defects (NTDs), and the mandatory fortification of food with iodine to address an emerging iodine deficiency, as a priority.

The Draft Assessment Report on the Mandatory Fortification of Food with Folic Acid was released for a four week public consultation period in July 2006. The Draft Assessment Report for Mandatory Fortification of Food with Iodine was released on 18 August 2006. This consultation period will close on 18 September 2006.

FSANZ expects to notify Food Ministers of a draft standard in late August 2006 for folic acid and in October 2006 for iodine. Once the Ministerial Council is notified of the draft standard Food Ministers have 60 days to finalise a position on these matters.

Current policy development

Addition to food of substances other than vitamins and minerals

A Policy Options Consultation Paper was released for an eight week consultation period. The consultation closed on 7 April 2006.

The Addition of Substances Sub Group has considered the submissions received and expects to provide the Ministerial Council with a draft policy guideline at its October 2006 meeting.

Coming up

2006/2007 FSANZ Board appointments

The terms of appointment of three FSANZ Board members are due to expire on 30 June 2007. The FSANZ Act and its Regulations set out the requirements for seeking nominations and making appointments to positions on the FSANZ Board.

The proposed timeline for the 2007 appointment process is as follows:
  • Seeking nominations from prescribed organisations between October and December 2006.
  • Selection process January - March 2007.
  • Consideration and approval by Ministerial Council May 2007.
  • Appointments made by 30 June 2007.Top of page

Completed policy guidelines

The following policy guidelines have been completed and are on the Food Regulation Secretariat website.
  • Fortification of Food with Vitamins and Minerals.
  • Nutrition, Health and Related Claims.
  • Food Safety Management in Australia: Food Safety Programs.
  • Country of Origin Labelling.
  • Novel Foods.
  • Addition of Caffeine to Foods.
  • Primary Production and Processing.
  • Policy principles for health and related claims in food labelling and advertising.

Calendar dates for 2006

Please note:The following dates may be subject to change
October:
25th - ANZFRMC - Sydney
November:
16th - ISC - Western Australia
December:
8th - FRSC - New Zealand

Acronyms
ISC - Implementation Sub Committee
FRSC - Food Regulation Standing Committee
ANZFRMC - Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council

For our stakeholders

Please let us know if your contact details have changed, or you know of anyone who might be interested in receiving the newsletter. Our contact details are:
Address: PO Box 4, Woden ACT 2606
Email: Food Regulation Secretariat
Phone: (02) 6289 5128
Fax: (02) 6289 5100
Website:Food Regulation SecretariatTop of page