The Food Regulation System

Page last updated: 07 January 2016

Overview

The food regulation system is a cooperative bi-national arrangement involving the Australian Government, states and territories and New Zealand. Food regulation in Australia involves all three levels of government. One of the most important features of the food regulatory system is the separation of policy decision making from the development of food standards.

The system is established through an intergovernmental agreement with the States and Territories (Food Regulation Agreement) and a Treaty between Australia and New Zealand (The Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of New Zealand establishing a System for the Development of Joint Food Standards). Additionally, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), the joint Australia and New Zealand standards setting body, is established under Commonwealth legislation, the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991. Each state and territory has its own laws to implement and enforce the food standards developed by FSANZ. In most states, local governments are involved in the monitoring and enforcement of food standards.

The cooperative system aims to:
  • Protect the health and safety of consumers by reducing risks related to food;
  • Enable consumers to make informed choices about food by ensuring that they have sufficient information and by preventing them from being misled;
  • Support public health objectives by promoting healthy food choices, maintaining and enhancing the nutritional qualities of food and responding to specific public health issues; and
  • Enable the existence of a strong, sustainable food industry to assist in achieving a diverse, affordable food supply and also for the general economic benefit of Australia and New Zealand.
Brochure explaining the food regulation system.

The Food Regulation Agreement

The Food Regulation Agreement (FRA) (PDF 623 KB), Food Regulation Agreement Annex A - Model Food Provision (PDF 82 KB), Food Regulation Agreement Annex B - Model Food Provision (PDF 213 KB), signed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) in November 2000, gives effect to a commitment by Commonwealth, State and Territory governments to a national approach to food regulation within Australia.

The FRA aims to provide a national system of safe food controls to protect public health and safety, reduce the regulatory burden on the food sector, facilitate harmonisation of Australian domestic and export standards with international standards, provide cost effective compliance and enforcement arrangements, and provide a consistent regulatory approach.

Food Treaty between Australia and New Zealand

In 1996, the Government of Australia and New Zealand formalised the Joint Food Standards System via a Treaty (The Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of New Zealand establishing a System for the Development of Joint Food Standards). The Treaty seeks to reduce unnecessary barriers to trade, to adopt a joint system of food standards, to provide for timely development, adoption and review of food standards and to facilitate sharing of information.

The Treaty was reviewed between January 2006 and October 2007, with a number of improvements being identified. The proposed amendments to the Treaty were brought into force on 6 July 2010.

The Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation (convening as the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council)

The food regulation system is overseen by the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation (the Forum). The Forum is established under the Food Regulation Agreement and has responsibility for developing domestic food regulation policy, developing policy guidelines for setting domestic food standards, and the promotion of a consistent approach to compliance with, and enforcement of, food standards. The Forum also has the capacity to adopt, amend or reject standards and to request that these be reviewed.

The Forum comprises ministerial representatives from all Australian Governments and the New Zealand Government. Each member brings a “whole of government” view to the Forum. This requires Ministers to balance and reconcile the objectives of ensuring public health and safety with the need to produce and deliver food to the public efficiently, with minimal regulation.

The Forum is supported by the Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC) which is responsible for coordinating policy advice to the Forum and ensuring a nationally consistent approach to the implementation and enforcement of food standards.

FRSC is, in turn, supported by the Implementation Sub-Committee (ISC), which oversees a consistent approach to implementation and enforcement of food regulations and standards.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is an independent statutory authority responsible for developing all domestic food standards based on scientific/technical criteria. FSANZ is managed by a Board with membership appointed by the Australian Government through the Minister responsible for the Health portfolio.

Further information is available on the FSANZ website.

Stakeholder Consultation

Stakeholder consultation is an integral component of the food regulation system, and a number of processes have been established to ensure stakeholders are consulted at the various stages of policy and standards development.

Additionally, FRSC and ISC host annual stakeholder consultation forums, which are open to the public, to provide an opportunity for those with an interest in food regulation to share their views.

Further details can be found in the Stakeholder Consultation section of this website.