Who is responsible for our system?
In Australia and New Zealand, laws on food are covered by a range of laws and policies. Generally, consumer protection laws require information about food to be truthful and not misleading. Food laws cover a more specific range of food issues including labelling, composition and food handling requirements.
There are many different government organisations responsible for particular areas of our food regulation system, which is in three main parts:
The bodies responsible for developing food policy are outlined below.
The Food Ministers' Meeting (previously the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation), includes Ministers from all Australian states and territories, as well ministers from the Australian and New Zealand federal governments. The Food Ministers' Meeting members are the decision makers in our system, and are responsible for approving food policy, and reviewing all food standards. They can also request a draft standard be reviewed, amended or rejected.
Food Ministers’ Meeting members have two distinct roles. Firstly, there are the requirements that government itself imposes on the joint system. Secondly, it has the role of arbitrator and is required to balance the national interest with the potentially competing views from consumers, from industry and from itself. Wherever possible, the Food Ministers’ Meeting makes decisions by consensus. However the Food Ministers’ Meeting can resolve matters by voting. Each of the ten government parties has one vote, and a simple majority of votes is required for a decision.
The Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC), supports the Food Ministers’ Meeting by coordinating policy advice. FRSC's job is to study and assess any potential food issues and work out the appropriate policy response. FRSC takes into account the nature and extent of the issue or risk posed, and considers this when proposing the most effective and proportionate response. Different options for response may include non-intervention, self-regulation, co-regulation or regulation. By working this way, FRSC encourages a responsive approach to identified issues that require coordination across our joint system.
Where an approach has been agreed by the Food Ministers’ Meeting that involves using prescriptive guidelines, FRSC makes sure there is a consistent and national approach taken to implementing and enforcing the new food standards. It does this with the help of a sub-committee, the Implementation Subcommittee for Food Regulation. FRSC members come from the same areas as Food Ministers’ Meeting members and include the relevant departments and agencies heads responsible for food regulation policy such as Department of Health, Industry, Agriculture and/or Primary Industries and/or Food Authorities.
The bodies responsible for developing, amending and setting food standards are outlined below.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand, was established under the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991 and is an independent statutory authority. It has a twelve member Board and offices in Canberra, Australia and Wellington, New Zealand.
FSANZ is part of the Australian Government Department of Health portfolio. FSANZ develops standards that regulate the use of ingredients, processing aids, colourings, additives, vitamins and minerals that are covered under the Australia and New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code). The Food Ministers’ Meeting considers the standards developed by FSANZ, and once agreed, they are included in the Code. The Code also covers some foods, e.g. dairy, meat and beverages, as well as standards developed by new technologies such as genetically modified foods.
FSANZ is also responsible for some labelling requirements on packaged and unpackaged food, e.g. specific mandatory warnings or advisory labels, and also develops Australia-only food standards to address food safety issues, including requirements for primary production.
The Australian state and territory and New Zealand government agencies are responsible for implementing, monitoring and enforcing food regulation through their own various Food Acts and other food related legislation. The Australian Government Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment enforces the Code at the border in relation to imported food.
The responsible agencies vary in each jurisdiction, but generally include policy areas within the relevant Departments of Health, and also within Departments of Industry, Agriculture and/or Primary Industries and/or Food Authorities. Across both countries, the bodies include:
- New Zealand government departments (imported, exported and domestically produced food);
- State and territory government departments and authorities; and
- Local government – over 560 local councils are involved in monitoring and enforcement throughout Australia. In New Zealand there are 73.
The Implementation Subcommittee for Food Regulation (ISFR), is responsible for making sure new and existing food standards can be implemented and enforced in a nationally consistent way across the various jurisdictions and agencies. In doing so, they consult with, and provide support to FSANZ. ISFR members include representatives from food regulation authorities in Australia and New Zealand.
ISFR is not an enforcement authority in its own right. It allows Australian and New Zealand food regulators to discuss common approaches to implementation and develop agreed strategies to achieve a consistent approach to the way food regulations are implemented, interpreted and enforced across jurisdictions. ISFR has developed the Australia and New Zealand Enforcement Guideline and the National Regulatory Food Safety Auditor Guideline.
More information about ISFR is available.
A work program that lists work underway within the system is developed and reviewed regularly.