The Food Ministers’ Meeting (FMM) met on Friday 25 November 2022 in Melbourne to consider food regulation and policy matters. The FMM is chaired by the Hon Ged Kearney MP and comprises all Australian and New Zealand Ministers responsible for food. The Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) Chair and CEO attended the meeting as observers.
Ministers remain committed to the 3 priorities of the Food Regulation System (the System):
- Reducing foodborne illness, particularly related to Campylobacter and Salmonella.
- Supporting the public health objectives to reduce chronic disease related to overweight and obesity.
- Maintaining a strong, robust and agile Food Regulation System through an ambitious reform agenda, to be progressed in conjunction with the review of the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991 (FSANZ Act).
Key outcomes from the meeting include:
Modernisation of the System
In November 2019 Food Ministers endorsed an ambitious plan to reform the Bi-national System to ensure it remains strong, robust and agile into the future.
Today Ministers endorsed the Aspirations for the System (previously published as Draft in May 2021).
The complete modernisation package, including an updated Food Regulation Agreement, is anticipated to be provided to Food Ministers for decision in early 2023.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991 Review
Ministers endorsed proposed reform concepts for further exploration to inform the development of a draft final Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) for the FSANZ Act Review.
The draft final RIS will be considered by Food Ministers at a future meeting prior to further public consultation in late 2023 or early 2024.
In August 2019 Food Ministers agreed that the most effective way to achieve nationally consistent menu labelling would be to develop a food regulatory measure under the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code) with development of a Ministerial Policy Guideline the first step.
At today’s meeting the FMM approved the Decision RIS for Menu Labelling in Australia and New Zealand, the report on the economic evaluation and the Ministerial Policy Guideline – Menu Labelling: displaying and providing energy information for standard food items on menus and at the point-of-sale in standard food outlets. These documents will be published on the Food Regulation website.
Ministers also requested FSANZ raise a proposal to develop a food regulatory measure for menu labelling in the Code incorporating findings of evaluations from existing menu labelling schemes in Australian jurisdictions.
The Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC) will develop comprehensive, sustained consumer education to support the implementation of menu labelling, and undertake a coordinated, bi-national evaluation of menu labelling.
Regulatory settings for food produced by cell culture or precision fermentation
In 2019 Ministers asked FRSC to consider regulatory and labelling issues relating to ‘synthetic foods’ with a view to developing a policy guideline to adequately differentiate ‘synthetic’ animal products from their natural or conventional equivalents.
At today’s meeting, the FMM:
- affirmed FSANZ’s view that foods produced by cell culture and precision fermentation will be captured within existing standards in the Code and require pre-market approval under Standard 1.5.1 Novel foods and Standard 1.5.2 Foods produced using gene technology.
- affirmed that food produced by cell culture or precision fermentation is subject to the existing labelling requirements in the Code and Australian Consumer Law.
- agreed that the term ‘synthetic foods’ is now too broad to usefully describe this area of food innovation, and therefore should now be referred to in more precise descriptive terms such as cell culture, precision fermentation or descriptors appropriate to other new technologies that may emerge.
- accepted advice from FRSC that at this time, ministerial policy guidelines are not required as the food regulation system in Australia and New Zealand is equipped to deal with new types of food, including foods produced by new technologies. Food Ministers will continue to monitor the need for additional standards based on the number and nature of the applications received.
Food businesses should contact FSANZ to discuss their regulatory obligations and for pre application assistance.
Businesses are required to apply for pre-market approval in order to sell their product in Australia and New Zealand. .
Entities who are seeking or will be seeking regulatory approval from FSANZ should also consider compliance with other Australian and New Zealand regulatory frameworks, including but not limited to consumer law, biosecurity requirements, the Imported Food Inspection Scheme, gene technology frameworks and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora..
Ministers with responsibility for food will meet again in the first half of 2023.
Visit the Food Regulation website for further information on food regulation activities – www.foodregulation.gov.au.