Australia and New Zealand are considering changes to their food code, inviting stakeholders to pass comment on a raft of propositions from food additive approvals to labelling requirements.
The Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) agency, responsible for setting food standards, warned consumers, food makers and governments that the closing date for submissions will be from 9 February 2005 to the beginning of March depending on the consultation.
“Changes under consideration include the mandatory fortification of food with iodine, a primary production and processing standard for the dairy industry, approval of a genetically modified food, and an increase in the amount of saccharin allowed in water-based flavoured drinks,” said the government agency this week.FSANZ has called for comments on:
Consideration of the mandatory fortification (of food) with iodine – Proposal P230 (Initial Assessment)
Emerging evidence suggests that a widespread mild iodine deficiency exists throughout Australia and New Zealand. The iodine content of food is a reflection of the environment, and as locally produced food is naturally low in iodine, it is difficult to meet dietary requirements through the diet. Salt is currently permitted to be voluntarily fortified with iodine. However, the use of iodised salt by consumers and food manufacturers does not appear to be having the desired impact on iodine status.
A growing concern around iodine status has prompted the ministerial council responsible for food to ask FSANZ to investigate mandatory fortification of food with iodine as a possible means of improving the iodine status of New Zealanders and Australians.
FSANZ has prepared an issues paper that explores four regulatory options, including mandatory fortification, and invites comment from the community, food manufacturers and health professionals.
Labelling requirements for retail sale and catering purposes – Proposal P272 (Initial Assessment)
FSANZ is reviewing a number of issues related to the interpretation and application of certain labelling requirements as they apply to food for retail sale and food for catering purposes.
The four main areas of concern are exemptions from labelling for some food for retail sale, labelling of food for catering purposes and exemptions, labelling requirements for packaged meals provided by delivered meals organisations (DMOs) and labelling requirements for meals provided in hospitals and similar institutions.
Review of food additive regulations in the Code – Proposal P279 (Initial Assessment)
Standard 1.3.1 – Food Additives has been in force for two years. During this period, feedback from stakeholders has suggested that there has been some difficulty in interpreting Schedule 1 and other relevant clauses in the standard.
FSANZ is proposing to make editorial changes to Schedule 1and to consider changes to individual clauses to clarify and improve the standard. To this end, FSANZ ‘welcomes advice’ from all stakeholders on any concerns relating to the clarity of approvals for additives in Schedule 1 and the costs and benefits of any change to Standard 1.3.1.
Review of the novel food standard – Proposal P291 (Initial Assessment)
Novel foods are defined as a sub-set of non-traditional foods. Because they lack a history of safe use in the food supply in Australia and New Zealand, novel foods and novel food ingredients must undergo a risk-based safety assessment before they can be sold. FSANZ is reviewing Standard 1.5.1 – Novel Foods, in response to policy guidance received from the ministerial council.
The review will examine a number of issues, including the definitions for both ‘non-traditional food’ and ‘novel food’, the mechanism for making determinations as to novelty and the scope of the standard to include food produced using new technologies. A number of regulatory options are being put forward, including ways of amending the standard. FSANZ would like to hear the views of affected parties on the costs and benefits of the options.
Primary Production and Processing Standard for Dairy – P296 (Initial Assessment) – Australia only
The governments of Australia have agreed that Australia should address food safety throughout all parts of the food chain – from production to consumption. This approach aims to maintain or improve public health and safety and ensure that consumers continue to have the highest confidence in the safety of the food they consume, without imposing undue costs on industry.
The dairy industry in Australia is a highly regulated sector and practices high levels of food safety management. FSANZ is collaborating with dairy regulators, industry groups and consumers to develop a single national dairy primary production and processing standard.
FSANZ seeks submissions from stakeholders to ensure that ‘any new standard is effective, relevant, provides benefits to consumers, is cost-effective for industry and can be enforced in a nationally consistent manner.’
Saccharin in water-based flavoured drinks – Application A469 (Draft Assessment)
The former Australasian Soft Drinks Association, now the Australian Beverages Council, asked FSANZ to amend the food code to increase the maximum permitted levels of saccharin in water-based flavoured drinks, including diet soft drinks and diet cordials.
The increase in permitted level being sought is from 80 milligrams per kilogram to 150 milligrams per kilogram. FSANZ has conducted dietary exposure studies and has concluded that consumers would experience no adverse health and safety effects from the elevated maximum permitted levels of saccharin in water-based flavoured drinks and that the use of saccharin at these levels is technologically justified.
Food derived from herbicide-tolerant sugar beet – Application A525(Draft Assessment)
Monsanto Australia Limited has applied to FSANZ to approve food derived from a genetically modified (GM) herbicide-tolerant sugar beet for inclusion in the Food Standards Code.
Before an approval can be given, FSANZ must conduct a pre-market safety assessment on the GM food to ensure that it is as safe as its non-GM counterpart. FSANZ has completed such an assessment, which considered the genetic modification to the plant; the potential toxicity and allergenicity of the new protein; and the compositional and nutritional adequacy of the food, comparing it to its non-GM counterpart.
‘FSANZ has concluded that food derived from sugar beet line H7-1 is as safe and wholesome as food derived from other sugar beet varieties. Public comment is sought.’
Food derived from corn rootworm-protected and glyphosate-tolerant corn MON 88017 – Application A548 (Initial Assessment )
Public comment is sought for this insect-protected and herbicide-tolerant GM corn, which provides dual resistance to corn rootworm and to glyphosate. As required in the code, FSANZ will conduct a pre-market safety assessment to determine whether the corn is safe for human consumption.
Food derived from high lycine corn LY038 – Application A549 (Initial Assessment)
Although this genetically modified corn is intended for use as an animal feed, it will undergo a pre-market safety assessment to determine its safety for human consumption, as above.
Please go to the following link to find more information on these issues and on how to send your comments: