Food Regulatory Developments - May 2019 - Australia & NZ

We will be posting monthly developments in food labelling policies, laws and general regulatory news from this month of May 2019. Here is our first.

1. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) invites stakeholders to lodge requests to harmonise Australia’s Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) with international standards

A request should comply with guidance material issued by FSANZ. For example, a request for harmonisation must identify a standard established either by the Codex Alimentarius Commission or nationally by a regulatory authority in a recognised jurisdiction.

Requests are due by 2 June 2019.

2. FSANZ is calling for comment on an application to lower the minimum alcohol percentage in the Food Standards Code for Tequila from 37 per cent to 35 per cent

FSANZ CEO Mark Booth said Spirits New Zealand proposed the changes which will harmonise requirements with Mexican rules for Tequila geographical indication (GI). A GI identifies a good (in this case Tequila) as originating in a specific region where a particular quality, reputation or other characteristic of the good is attributable to that geographic origin. “Currently the Code requires all spirits to have a minimum content of 37 per cent. Therefore, some products legally entitled to use the Tequila GI are excluded from the New Zealand and Australian markets," Mr Booth said.

The period for comment closes 18 June 2019.

3. FSANZ released an information paper on its proposed approach to a review Chapters 3 and 4 of food safety standards in the Food Standards Code for Australia only

The review will focus on:

· the requirements for food safety management in the food service sector and closely related retail sectors, and

· potential development of a primary production and processing standard for high-risk horticulture products to introduce requirements to manage food safety on-farm, including requirements for traceability.

Comment due 31 May 2019

4. FSANZ called for submissions on an application to permit a novel production method for a mixture of already permitted sweeteners, rebaudiosides M and D (Reb MD) (steviol glycosides, sweeteners extracted from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana Bertoni plant), in the Food Standards Code

“The applicant is seeking approval to include a new specification for Reb MD produced from microbial fermentation, rather than from the plant,” Mr Booth said. “FSANZ's risk assessment found no health and safety concerns with this new production method.”

The submissions period closed 10 May 2019.

5. FSANZ released data on FSANZ co-ordinated Australian food recalls in 2018

There were 100 FSANZ co-ordinated recalls in 2018, up from 69 in 2017, with 46 per cent of these due to undeclared allergens, followed by microbial contamination (20 per cent). “These results demonstrate that food businesses in Australia need to be across the mandatory allergen labelling requirements in the Food Standards Code,” FSANZ CEO said. “FSANZ has identified four key causes of allergen-related recalls, including lack of skills and knowledge of labelling requirements, supplier verification, packaging errors and accidental cross contamination.”

6. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) released its report on the strawberry tampering incident, with key recommendations focusing on the need for improved communication during incidents, particularly those involving criminal matters

“The government has already acted in response to this incident by strengthening penalties for intentional contamination of food, and helping FSANZ progress their review into high-risk horticulture sectors," FSANZ CEO Mr Booth said. “The report's recommendations, once implemented, will help ensure an improved response to any future incidents. These improvements will support our growers and ensure Australians can continue to trust in our effective and responsive food safety system." Mr Booth said several recommendations focused on improved communication in incidents involving criminal investigations, as well as a review of existing food incident protocols. Read the report

Food Labelling Matters gives monthly food labelling regulatory updated here

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