Page last updated: 12 February 2020

In this section you'll find a history of the Joint Food System and the establishment of the Treaty with New Zealand, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and the Food Committees.

1980 - The Model Food Act, covering sale and food preparation offences, labelling and hygiene requirements, regulation and administration and enforcement, was agreed to by the Conference of Health Ministers.

1986 - As a result of the first National Food Standards Agreement between the Commonwealth, States and Territories, the National Foods Standards Council (NFSC) was established. Its role was to adopt approved food standards drafted by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).

1986 - The NHMRC's Australian Food Standards Code was endorsed by the Commonwealth, States and Territories.

1991 - The Commonwealth passed the National Food Authority Act, the first federal legislation enacted to unify food standards in Australia. The legislation implemented a number of Commonwealth and State/Territory agreements, including the agreement of Australian Health Ministers in 1990 to a national method of setting food standards. Concurrently, State Premiers agreed that uniform national standards should apply across the country. The legislation established a National Food Authority to prepare food standards and, in cooperation with the States, educate the community and conduct research into food and its uses.

1991 - The second National Food Standards Agreement committed the States and Territories to the adoption of food standards after majority decisions by the NFSC. Food standards were automatically adopted by reference, through respective jurisdictional Food Acts, when gazetted by the Commonwealth.

1995 - The Australian Parliament passed amending legislation to change the National Food Authority into the Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) and establish a joint food standards setting system for Australia and New Zealand. The joint system was structured so that:

  • ANZFA developed food standards and made recommendations on draft food standards or draft variations of standards. It made recommendations on the implementation and operation of uniform standards to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council (the Council).
  • The Council included Health Ministers from the Commonwealth, States and Territories as well as the New Zealand Health Minister. The Council could adopt, amend or reject ANZFA's recommendations or return them for reconsideration. Under the scheme, once a standard had been adopted by the Council it was adopted by reference under State, Territory and New Zealand legislation.
Aside from ANZFA, a number of other agencies also had responsibilities in relation to food standards. Most importantly, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) retained responsibility for developing and enforcing export food regulations and standards. In the primary industry sector, food safety standards were developed by the Agriculture and Resource Management Council of Australia and New Zealand (ARMCANZ).

1996 - A new agency, the Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) (now Food Standards Australia New Zealand to establishment of FSANZ]), was created following the passing of the National Food Authority Amendment Act 1995.

1996 - The Treaty between Australia and New Zealand establishing a System for the Development of Joint Food Standards came into force to help align food standards, reduce compliance costs and remove some red tape around food trade.

1997 - The Prime Minister announced a review of food industry regulation, noting that:
The food industry had significant concerns about the burden imposed on business by inconsistent and unnecessary regulation, poor co-ordination of government agencies and inconsistent compliance and monitoring arrangements. Significant issues included the costs of standards of compliance, costs of labelling compliance and the importance of adopting uniform food standards.

1998 - The Review was conducted by Dr Bill Blair and culminated in the release of a report entitled Food - a growth industry in August 1998. The Blair Review reported that 'the food regulatory system in Australia is considered to be complex, fragmented, inconsistent and wasteful.'

Dr Blair made a number of recommendations including that:
  • governments give greater weight to achieving a well-integrated, streamlined and cost-effective system to protect public health and safety, across the whole food supply chain;
  • governments develop more effective working relations and strengthen partnerships between agencies involved in food regulation, the agrifood industry, relevant statutory authorities and consumers;
  • the responsibility for developing all domestic food regulations and standards be centralised within a national agency that operates as a partnership between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories. The resulting food regulations or standards would be recommended to Commonwealth, State and Territory Ministers for national agreement and uniform adoption and be enforced and administered by the appropriate State and Territory regulatory agency;
  • the Commonwealth should merge the food regulatory policy functions of AQIS and ANZFA and consider merging other Commonwealth regulatory agencies to further streamline and improve food regulation in Australia;
  • a single Commonwealth/State/Territory and New Zealand Council of Food Ministers should be established with responsibility for developing all food regulations in Australia; and
  • the standard-setting process should be streamlined.
1998 - The Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Arrangement (TTMRA) came into effect. The purpose of this agreement between the Australian Government, State and Territory Governments and the Government of New Zealand is to permit goods, including foodstuffs that can legally be sold in Australia to also be sold in New Zealand, and vice versa, with some exceptions.

After the release of the Blair Report, the Prime Minister wrote to all Premiers/Chief Ministers suggesting that COAG Senior Officials develop a whole-of-government response for COAGs consideration. A Senior Officials Working Group (SOWG) was established, and tasked with developing a nationally co-ordinated approach to food regulations, based on the recommendations of the Blair Report, and to prepare a draft inter-governmental agreement.

The SOWG also provided advice on the consistency of the food reforms being developed by ANZFSC (the Model Food Provisions and the Food Safety Standards), and also the food regulatory model it was developing.

1999 - After the October ANZFSC meeting, the Health Ministers agreed to refer the Model Food Provisions to COAG for consideration, and the SOWG was requested to finalise the Model Food Provisions, rather than just provide advice on its consistency.

The SOWG commented that while they supported most of the recommendations and the general approach of the Report, they felt a number of Dr Blair’s recommendations relied too heavily on uniformity of legislation and processes, and the integration of their supporting infrastructure, rather than the co-operative approach that COAG promotes. The SOWG agreed that uniformity is important, but considered that any system designed to achieve the production of safe food is, by its very nature, complex and includes a large number of stakeholders who all have a legitimate contribution to make to the production of safe food. The system had to reflect the many and varied businesses and stakeholders in this food supply chain and the different layers in the Australian system of government and their respective constitutional responsibilities.

Therefore, the SOWG focused on achieving common, nationally agreed food safety outcomes through a consistent approach. Such approaches, while uniform, would be designed to be flexible enough to recognise the rights of State and Territory Parliaments to develop their own regulatory, structural and administrative arrangements to best suit their respective jurisdictions, and would recognise Australia’s efforts to align with New Zealand.

Ultimately, the SOWG in its response supported the Blair Report recommendations 1, 4, 6, 7, 15, 20 and 22 which mainly related to improved compliance and enforcement, integrated monitoring and surveillance and more effective communications. Other recommendations, which reflect this approach to a large degree, were supported in principle, being recommendations 3, 8, 16-19, 21 and 23. Recommendations 2, 5 and 9-14 were either supported with qualification (sometimes significant qualification), or not supported at all, because they proposed that a national food regulatory system is best achieved through the integration of agency functions and through legislative and process uniformity which requires, in some instances, the referral of powers from the States/Territories to the Commonwealth.

2000 - The model recommended by the SOWG group was accepted by COAG at its meeting in November and is reflected in the Food Regulation Agreement (FRA) signed by the Heads of Government. The model comprises:
  • an Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council, to be chaired by the Commonwealth Minister for Health and Aged Care, to develop domestic food regulation policy and policy guidelines for the development of domestic food standards, with the capacity to reject standards in certain circumstances;
  • a single, independent, expertise-based, statutory authority, called FSANZ, to develop all domestic food standards based on the scientific and technical advice of the agency;
  • a Food Regulation Standing Committee to support the Ministerial Council;
  • a Food Standards Implementation Sub-Committee to develop guidelines on enforcement of food regulations;
  • a Food Regulation Consultative Council, or other agreed mechanism, to provide advice to all the bodies above; and
  • a single set of domestic food standards that are consistent with internationally recognised Codex standards except, and only, where essential for Australian circumstances and which form the basis of Australia’s export standards, recognising that some countries may demand additional requirements.
The 2000 Food Regulation Agreement became the basis of a national approach to food regulation and included Model Food Provisions Annex A and Annex B for State and Territory legislation.

2000 - The ANZFSC adopted the new joint Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code on 24 November, after a six year review of existing food standards. This was a key milestone, as it was the first time Australia and New Zealand had a joint food code. The new Code was phased in over a two year period and was fully in force by December 2002.

2001 - Victoria, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory were the first jurisdictions to adopt the Model Food Provisions.

2001 - The ANZFA Amendment Bill 2001 was passed. This replaced ANZFA with the statutory authority Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).

2001 - The first meeting of the new food standards council was held in July, the newly constituted ANZFRMC (the Australia New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council). To ensure that decision making reflected whole of government views Health Ministers on this Council were joint by other ministers with responsibility for food such as Agriculture Ministers. Read more about the establishment of committees here.

2002 - FSANZ was established on 1 July 2002.

2002 - The Food Regulation Agreement was amended in December, reflecting the required amendments to the FSANZ Act to implement the food system. The Agreement is an important milestone, as it commits the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments to implement a co-operative national system of food regulation.

2005 - 2008 – During this period a number of projects and reviews of different parts of the food regulation system were undertaken. These include:
  • the Blair Implementation Stocktake;
  • Food Legislation landscape work undertaken by Implementation Sub-Committee;
  • Food Standards Australia New Zealand Assessment and Approval Process Project Report;
  • 2006 Stakeholder Forum;
  • Food Regulation Agreement Review Report;
  • Review of the Food Treaty between Australia and New Zealand;
  • Corish Review;
  • Banks Report;
  • Productivity Commission Report ‘Regulatory Burden on Business: Primary Sector’;
  • Productivity Commission Study on Chemicals and Plastics Regulation; and
  • Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission entitled Simplifying the Menu: Food Regulation in Victoria.
Is a result of these reviews, significant work was underway through the Australia New Zealand Food Regulations Ministerial Council, FSANZ, and the Standing Committee supporting the Ministerial Council to make improvements to the food regulation system.

2007 - Amendments to the FSANZ Act that reflected these improvements took effect on 1 July.

2009 - The last of the Australian jurisdictions adopted the Model Food Provisions (Western Australia).

2010 - The updated Treaty came into effect on 6 July 2010.

2009 - 2011 – COAG and the Ministerial Council agreed to undertake a comprehensive review of food labelling law and policy. The independent Review Panel released its final report, Labelling Logic, on 28 January 2011. On 9 December 2011, the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation agreed its response to the final report.

2011 - COAG agreed to establish a new Council System. As part of the new system the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council (Ministerial Council) became the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation (the Forum).

2013 - COAG further streamlined the Council System and decided that the Forum would operate outside of COAG.

2015 - The Forum changed its name to Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation.

Establishment of a Food Treaty with New Zealand

In 1996, an agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of New Zealand established a system for the development of Joint Food Standards, known as the Treaty. The Food Treaty seeks to reduce unnecessary barriers to trade, to adopt a joint system of food standards, to provide for timely development, adoption and review of food standards and to facilitate sharing of information.

Following a review in July 2002, an updated Treaty, with a new subtitle, Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of New Zealand Concerning a Joint Food Standards System’ came into force. The Treaty was further reviewed 2006, and amended with the updated Treaty coming into effect in 2010.

Establishment of FSANZ

1991 - Parliament passed the National Food Authority Act 1991 and established the National Food Authority.
1996 - Creation of the Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA).
1999 - ANZFA Amendment Act (1999) allowed ANZFA to be superseded by FSANZ.
2002 - FSANZ was established on 1 July.

Establishment of food committees

The first meeting of the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council was in July 2001. Between 2011 – 2014 the Forum was known as the FoFR or Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation. Prior to 2011, the Forum was known as the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council (or Ministerial Council).

In February 2011, when Council of Australian Governments (COAG) agreed to establish a new Council System, the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council (Ministerial Council) became the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation (the Forum). When the Forum was launched in September 2011, the Ministerial Council’s remit was withdrawn, except where it is referred to by name in legal instruments such as legislation, treaties and intergovernmental agreements. In December 2013, it was decided that the Forum would operate outside of COAG.

At the April 2013 meeting of the Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC), Members agreed to re-name the Implementation Sub-Committee to the Implementation Subcommittee for Food Regulation (ISFR). This name change better reflects the Committee’s role.

On the 30 January 2015 the Forum change its name to Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation.

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