Two chapters of the Code, which pertain to food safety, will be subjected to assessment as part of this review, which are Chapter Three (Food Safety Standards) and Chapter Four (Primary Production and Processing Standards).
Both Chapters Three and Four apply only to Australia.
“The Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation has asked FSANZ to consider whether, and how, the food laws could be better supported by standards (regulatory measures) or non-regulatory measures,” said FSANZ via an official statement on the review.
“[These] food safety standards have not been reviewed since their development in 2000.”
Amongst the items that FSANZ is addressing with these proposals include specific requests from the forum for food businesses to have a food safety supervisor, evidence to demonstrate that key activities/control processes are being managed, and that all food handlers undergo mandatory training.
In the first proposal which would affect standards covered under Chapter Three, FSANZ said that food safety management tools that could benefit the food service and retail sector would be evaluated as potential additional food regulatory measures.
The draft regulations containing these new measures are expected to be completed by the end of October 2019, following which a public consultation will be launched in November 2019. The latest date for which the draft regulations will be formally gazetted (if no further review is required) is estimated to be May 2020.
Assessments and consultations under the second proposal, which pertains to Chapter Four, are expected to result in the development of an entirely new standard for food safety management.
“This is a major procedure, [because] it will require complex risk assessment and risk management, economic assessment, legal expertise and communications work involving several sections of FSANZ,” said the agency.
“Consultation with state and local governments, industry and consumer groups will also be required.”
The draft regulations for these are expected to be prepared by June 2020, and open for public comment until July 2020. The anticipated gazettal date is February 2021.
Technology to play a role
In addition, FSANZ said that focus would also be placed on ‘new technologies that have developed’ since the original food safety standards were put into place.
Possible examples here would be similar to three food safety tools adopted by New Zealand earlier this year: My Food Rules, My Food Plan and Remote Verification.
My Food Rules is an online business registration tool which helps operators figure out the right food safety rules to observe, whereas My Food Plan is a customisable tool that outlines procedures to help food firms manage common food safety risks when making products.
“My Food Rules is the fastest and easiest way for food businesses to find out what food rules they need to follow, [whereas] My Food Plan is a pre-evaluated custom plan that can be registered within 20 days, [saving businesses up to $25,000 and nine months of time],” New Zealand Food Safety Deputy Director-General said on Radio New Zealand.
Remote Verification is more highly applicable for businesses in remote areas.
Food service businesses in New Zealand normally need to pay an approved food safety verifier to verify their business once every two years, along with all accompanying costs, which could cost up to thousands of dollars. Remote Verification allows for Skype-based auditing, hence cutting down these costs greatly.