Food Ministers agree to a range of policy initiatives
The Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council met in Perth today. As the body responsible for food policy development in Australia and New Zealand, it made a number of important policy decisions.
Maximum Residue Level Harmonisation (within Australia)
The Ministerial Council agreed to a process to harmonise the Maximum Residue Level (MRL) setting procedures of the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority and Food Standards Australia New Zealand. The ultimate aim is to establish one set of published MRLs that regulate safe food and safe chemical use in agriculture.
The agreed approach is based on the harmonisation of administrative processes, monitoring and review of the new harmonised assessment process and, subject to satisfaction with the new processes, the issuing of a single MRL.
Phase Out of Ethylene Oxide in Australia
The phase-out of Ethylene Oxide (EtO) use in Australia for the treatment of herbs and spices is now complete. The Ministerial Council has been assured that 100% of the Australian Food and Grocery Council's products (representing 99% of trade by volume sold in Australia), are no longer treated with EtO. This has been achieved through the use of steam sterilisation, batch selection and good manufacturing practice.
Numerous mechanisms have been used to ensure that small producers and importers of herbs and spices, representing the remaining 1% of trade by volume sold in Australia, are also aware of their responsibilities relating to the phase-out of EtO.
The Ministerial Council would like to thank the Australian Food and Grocery Council for their contribution to the phase-out of EtO.
Review of Labelling of Genetically Modified Food
When the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council agreed to a new labelling regime for genetically modified (GM) foods in December 2000, Australia and New Zealand were amongst the first countries in the world to implement GM food labelling requirements. Ministers had therefore requested that the new requirements be reviewed in three years to assess what has happened internationally.
The Ministerial Council today agreed to terms of reference and consultation questions for the review. The terms of reference are:
"Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) will conduct the review and prepare a report for the Australia New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council, governed by the following terms of reference.
- Prepare a review of GM food labelling legislation or regulation internationally (proposed and existing), with a particular focus on the EU, USA, Canada, and APEC countries.
- Compare the current Australian/New Zealand requirements for GM food labelling with the requirements of countries listed in (1).
- Examine consumer attitudes in relation to the labelling and acceptance of GM foods, where they have been publicly reported in Australia/New Zealand and those countries listed in (1).
- Summarise developments in the Codex Alimentarius in respect of a standard for the labelling of GM food.
- Prepare in association with New Zealand Food Safety Authority and Australian state and Territory authorities a summary of implementation of the GM food labelling standard in Australia and New Zealand and report on compliance and enforcement with the Standard to date."
- The terms of reference and consultation questions will be available on the FSANZ website.
Emerging Iodine Deficiency in Australia
Ministers noted the progress undertaken in Tasmania in relation to the Tasmanian Iodine Supplementation Program and the emerging evidence of mild iodine deficiency in Australia and New Zealand. Ministers were supportive of the implementation of a national iodine nutrition study which should provide further evidence of any emerging deficiencies.
Kay McNeice, Media Adviser,
ANZFRMC Secretariat 0412 132 585 OR
+61 412 132 585 (NZ)