Food Ministers agree to a range of policy initiatives
The Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council met in Sydney today. This was the first face to face meeting of the newly expanded Ministerial Council. As the body responsible for food policy development in Australia and New Zealand, it made a number of important policy decisions.
Country of Origin Labelling of FoodFood Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has asked the Ministerial Council for policy advice to guide it in its review of country of origin labelling of food.
The Ministerial Council agreed to a policy direction on mandatory country of origin labelling of food. Ministers emphasised that this is not a public health and safety issue, as the safety of the food supply is assured through other means. The Council's support for country of origin labelling is on the grounds of enabling consumers to make informed choices. Ministers noted that access to information on country of origin was an important factor in consumers making choices. At present there is a temporary arrangement in place for mandatory country of origin labelling to continue in Australia. In New Zealand, there has been long standing provision under fair trading legislation for voluntary country of origin labelling.
Added Caffeine in FoodsIn response to public concern about caffeine intake, particularly when consumed by vulnerable sub-groups such as children, the Ministerial Council has been considering the addition of caffeine to foods.
The Ministerial Council agreed, until further evidence becomes available, to maintain the status quo for caffeine regulation by:
- maintaining the current additive permissions for caffeine; and
- restricting the use of new products containing non-traditional caffeine rich ingredients (including guarana) to boost the caffeine content in other food, beyond the current provisions for caffeine.
Caffeinated kola drinks and formulated caffeinated beverages will be permitted in accordance with the current standards.
Any transitional arrangements will be reviewed in light of this decision.
In addition, the Ministerial Council asked for further investigations to be done on the:
- use of guarana and guarana extract; and
- definition of kola drinks
The Ministerial Council also agreed to review any further scientific evidence in two years time.
Review of GM LabellingThe Ministerial Council agreed to proceed with a review of the labelling requirements for genetically modified food. The review will include a review of legislation in place around the world. The Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC) has been asked to develop terms of reference and advice on the scope of the review.
Consultation MechanismThe Ministerial Council considers it important that the community has confidence in the new food regulatory system and that the process of policy guideline development is transparent and allows input from all interest stakeholders.
To this end, the Ministerial Council has endorsed new Principles for Operating Protocols for Stakeholder Consultation. The Ministerial Council has asked that these Principles be reviewed in 12 months time.
Maximum Residue Levels for Ceftiofur (for Australia only)The Ministerial Council had previously agreed to adopt draft variations to the Food Standards Code to include maximum residue levels (MRLs) for ceftiofur except for edible offal and fat (cattle). The Council asked FSANZ and the National Registration Body (NRA) for further advice on the proposed MRL for ceftiofur for cattle edible offal and fat.
The Ministerial Council has now received advice from FSANZ, the NRA the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the Expert Advisory Group on Antimicrobial Resistance (EAGAR) that they have found no evidence of harm to humans at the MRLs proposed for Ceftiofur. In particular, Ministers noted that ceftiofur is not registered for use in humans and that its use in animals is limited to the treatment of individual animals for bacterial infections of the respiratory tract only by injection.
The Ministerial Council agreed to the MRLs for ceftiofur for cattle, edible offal of 2mg/kg and cattle fat of 0.5mg/kg for Australia.
Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy Risk Assessment and Management (for Australia only)Prior to this meeting, the Ministerial Council agreed out of session to notification of the FSANZ Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) Risk Assessment and Risk Management Strategy and the resulting amendments to the BSE clause in the Meat and Meat Products Standard. This is an Australia only standard. This decision was based on the currently available scientific evidence that indicates negligible contamination and transmission risks of the BSE agent in the exempted materials.
Ministers are aware that further research is still being undertaken in the field of BSE and transmissible spongiform encephalopathies (TSE) contamination and transmission risks. The Ministerial Council has therefore asked FSANZ to review the latest scientific evidence on BSE and TSE contamination and transmission risks and international regulatory measures for managing these risks, and report to the Ministerial Council in 12 months time.
Soy Based Infant FormulaMinisters agreed that FSANZ should continue to monitor developments relating to soy-based infant formula and to advise the Council of any significant issues.
John Noble, Media Adviser,
ANZFRMC Secretariat 0413 890 241 OR
+61 412 132 585 (NZ)