Food safety minister Nikki Kaye has announced the opening of consultation on measures that aim to ensure the robustness of New Zealand’s assurance system for infant formula exports.
"In June last year I announced a work plan to further protect and strengthen confidence in New Zealand’s food assurance systems, to match rapid growth in infant formula exports," said Kaye
"Export assurances are particularly important for infant formula exports where consumers have strong concerns about food safety, quality and product integrity."
An inter-departmental officials group led by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has developed a set of proposals that include clarifying labelling requirements for infant formula intended for export, and implementing systems to improve MPI’s monitoring of infant formula exports to markets that do not currently require official New Zealand government assurances for infant formula exports.
It will also consolidate and specify existing standards that apply to infant formula manufacturing in New Zealand.
Consultation papers on the labelling and export monitoring proposal have been released. A further consultation paper on proposals to consolidate and precisely specify standards for infant formula manufacturing will be released by MPI later in July.
The first of the proposals being consulted on is a draft animal products act notice that will apply to all exporters of infant formula and all those who manufacture or process, transport, pack, or store infant formula.
It will mean all retail-ready formulas have full electronic traceability, and are tracked from each premise, Kaye said. There will also be a requirement for all exporters to identify a party accountable for recall in the importing country.
The second consultation document is for a draft labelling notice, which establishes minimum requirements on labels of exported retail-ready infant formula. The notice does not prescribe the format of information on the label, but sets out the information that must be included, that which is prohibited, and information that is voluntary.
"New Zealand’s reputation around the world as a leading producer of safe and trusted food is extremely important to our competitive advantage as exporters," Kaye said.
"The government Inquiry into the whey protein concentrate contamination Incident also noted the infant formula market assurance work under way, and in particular recommended that the requirements for infant formula exporters should be strengthened."
The proposals announced take account of international standards and the evolving regulatory requirements in countries such as the United States and China, and would apply to exports of infant formula to all countries.
Submissions will close on August 20.