NZ’s ‘outdated’ Food Act to be replaced to lift safety standards

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food New zealand

The New Zealand government has pledged to update what it describes as its “outdated” 28-year-old Food Act to make it more relevant to businesses and consumers while improving safety standards.

"The Food Act is outdated and our current regulatory system is ineffective and inefficient​,” said Kate Wilkinson, minister for food safety. “As a consequence it imposes unnecessary compliance costs and doesn't do enough to protect consumers and reduce food-borne illness​."

Developed over the past two years, the new Food Bill has also been designed to improve business certainty, help exports and reduce compliance costs. “It will be aligned with the New Zealand Standard platform, which provides the basis for our food exports​,” said Wilkinson.

Risk-based system

In moving to a risk-based system, the new legislation will offer greater protection for consumers and help address gaps in the law as well as to avoid duplication with other legislation.

The risk-based system will align the country with most other developed countries as responsibility for food safety is transferred from inspectors to the person in charge of the food operation. Food operators “…must be proactive in the way they manage food safety and suitability and must demonstrate how they manage food safety​,” said the government.

At present, 40 local councils, or 55 per cent of the total, have bylaws to address gaps in the existing food regulatory regimes. The most common are for compulsory training and/or qualifications for food handlers, provisions for closures and specific premises types (such as food stalls and mobile traders), and licensing and registration requirements.

The new act will clarify the New Zealand Standard for all food sold within, and exported from, New Zealand; providing for a national restaurant grading system; replace the Food Hygiene Regulations 1974; and strengthen penalty provisions.

Performance monitoring

It will be introduced to Parliament next year and be implemented by late 2010 or early 2011. A performance monitoring system is being developed to measure the effectiveness of the food regulatory regime against a series of agreed indicators.

More details of the new act can be found at www.nzfsa.govt.nz​.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s food sector has an estimated annual turnover of $22b and employs more than 20 per cent of the national workforce.

Food accounts for exports of $18bn and this is expected to continue to grow over the next 10 years with the support of a new Act.

"The Food Act is outdated and our current regulatory system is ineffective and inefficient​,” said Kate Wilkinson, minister for food safety. “As a consequence it imposes unnecessary compliance costs and doesn't do enough to protect consumers and reduce food-borne illness​."

Developed over the past two years, the new Food Bill has also been designed to improve business certainty, help exports and reduce compliance costs. “It will be aligned with the New Zealand Standard platform, which provides the basis for our food exports​,” said Wilkinson.

Risk-based system

In moving to a risk-based system, the new legislation will offer greater protection for consumers and help address gaps in the law as well as to avoid duplication with other legislation.

The risk-based system will align the country with most other developed countries as responsibility for food safety is transferred from inspectors to the person in charge of the food operation. Food operators “…must be proactive in the way they manage food safety and suitability and must demonstrate how they manage food safety​,” said the government.

At present, 40 local councils, or 55 per cent of the total, have bylaws to address gaps in the existing food regulatory regimes. The most common are for compulsory training and/or qualifications for food handlers, provisions for closures and specific premises types (such as food stalls and mobile traders), and licensing and registration requirements.

The new act will clarify the New Zealand Standard for all food sold within, and exported from, New Zealand; providing for a national restaurant grading system; replace the Food Hygiene Regulations 1974; and strengthen penalty provisions.

Performance monitoring

It will be introduced to Parliament next year and be implemented by late 2010 or early 2011. A performance monitoring system is being developed to measure the effectiveness of the food regulatory regime against a series of agreed indicators.

More details of the new act can be found at www.nzfsa.govt.nz​.

Meanwhile, New Zealand’s food sector has an estimated annual turnover of $22b and employs more than 20 per cent of the national workforce.

Food accounts for exports of $18bn and this is expected to continue to grow over the next 10 years with the support of a new Act.

Related topics Policy Oceania Food safety

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