The main changes in an overhaul of 35-year-old food safety rules focus on food production, rather than where products are made, implementing control plans for higher-risk operators and a national programme for those who are lower risk, and improving enforcement of the new laws.
"The Food Act 2014 is designed to modernise food safety in New Zealand,” said Scott Gallacher of the Ministry for Primary Industries. “It will make it easier for businesses to make sure their food is safe.”
Katherine Rich, chief executive of the NZ Food and Grocery Council, has praised the new Act, calling it a “welcome modernisation of New Zealand’s food law”.
“The previous law was decades old and much has happened in food production during that time,” she said.
“Our country is known as a source of high quality, safe food and this legal update is vital to New Zealand's economic future as a supplier of food to the world.”
The MPI had done a thorough job in constructing a risk-based system that maintaining high standards without creating too much bureaucracy, Rich added.
However, not all sections of the food industry are supportive of the Act. Among them, the Hospitality Association has warned that the Act will have consequences for small businesses and force companies to pass on increased costs to consumers.
Meanwhile, a revised version of the food standards code in use across Australia and New Zealand has also come into effect. According to the antipodean food regulator, Fsanz, there will be no transition period from the old version of the code.
Steve McCutcheon, chief executive of Fsanz, said the revision aligns the code more closely with food Acts in Australian states and territories and in New Zealand.
“While the code looks a lot different, the changes are relatively minor in nature,” McCutcheon said, adding that he expected the food industry to benefit from “clearer, easier to follow” standards.
The new version of the code can be viewed on the FSANZ website.