The Forum, on 15 November endorsed an ambitious plan to reform the Bi-national Food Regulation System (the System) to ensure it remains strong, robust and agile into the future. A key element underpinning the reform agenda is the development of a policy vision for the future which will guide a comprehensive review of the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991 (FSANZ Act) and the Intergovernmental Food Regulation Agreement.
This decision reflects the knowledge that the System is operating in a complex operating environment with changing consumer expectations and significant technological advancements. Forum Ministers consider that the time is right for a fundamental examination of the way the System works and has endorsed a strategic plan that will be used to guide reforms to the System. The strategic plan includes pursuing new institutional and legislative foundations for the System.
The Forum recognises that governments, industry, consumers and public health advocates in both countries play an important role in the joint Food Regulation System. All relevant stakeholders will be engaged in this reform process.
The reform agenda via progressed via three interconnected sub-projects:
- Food Regulation Agreement (FRA) – this project will review and modernise the FRA to create a new foundation document for the food regulatory system.
- Jurisdictional Consistency – this project will initially provide advice on whether inconsistent implementation of food standards causes cost and vulnerability to government and industry.
- Operations – this project will provide operational and functional improvements to the food regulatory system.
Separately, but in in close collaboration, the Australian Government will undertake the FSANZ Act Review. This Review will aim to streamline FSANZ operations and ensure it takes a risk proportionate approach to its work to deliver outcomes in a timelier manner to better facilitate industry innovation and trade opportunities while maintaining a safe food supply for the population. The Terms of Reference for this Review have been agreed in July 2020.
This is a comprehensive reform agenda. All this work will be progressed in lockstep to ensure key deliverables are aligned and consistent across all reform proposals.
The reform agenda will be cognisant of the Food Standards Treaty (Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of New Zealand concerning a joint food standards system) and bilateral engagement relating to potential changes to the FSANZ Act and FRA. There may also be consideration of state regulations under the national consistency project, noting that these are the prerogative of state governments.
System reforms have been welcomed by stakeholders and consultation is essential. We anticipate several coordinated approaches to consultation, including via a submission process and more targeted conversations on specific proposals that might impact industry. A stakeholder engagement plan is being developed and will be shared through this website. Engagement is expected throughout the second half of 2020.
A consultation on the FSANZ Act review is now open. For more information please go to the Australian Government Department of Health’s consultation hub.