The approach our governments take in making our food policy, setting standards and their implementation and enforcement is discussed in the Overarching Strategic Statement for the Food Regulatory System document. This paper was prepared in 2008 to help make clearer the scope and objectives of our joint food regulation system, and to provide context and guidance for those stakeholders working with the system. The document also explores some of the policy tensions in the food regulatory system. For example, whether our system could (or should) achieve wider public health objectives, and the extent to which the food system should facilitate trade.
The context in which policy makers consider regulation and the strategic approach they take has been well considered, and largely centres around when it is appropriate to apply food regulation. Making policy and standards is just one way to achieve the objectives of our food system. For example, between 2012 and 2014 a voluntary front-of-pack labelling scheme was developed by the Australian, state and territory governments in collaboration with industry, public health and consumer group. Health Star Rating system is now being implemented on a voluntary basis by the food industry.
When identifying and assessing a potential food regulatory issue to determining the appropriate policy response the bodies responsible take into consideration the priority or importance of the issue within the context of broader strategies (such as public health, animal and plant health, and industry developments). We promote a responsive approach to food regulation, taking account of the nature and extent of the risk posed, and seeking to deliver an effective and proportionate response. We support modes of non-intervention, self-regulation or co-regulation where possible, but also recognise that escalation to more prescriptive modes may be necessary. This arrangement fosters a responsive approach to identified issues that require coordination across the food regulatory system.
If regulation is being considered, the following principles of making ‘good’ regulation are followed, which require regulation to be:
- Efficient – to find the appropriate level of regulation that achieves the desired outcome with minimal cost and impact on competition
- Effective – to ensure the regulation can be complied with and enforced, has clear outcomes is flexible and reviewed regularly
- Equitable – to ensure the process is clear and transparent and fair as possible
- be as consistent as possible between Australia and New Zealand
- make good regulatory decisions based on sound evidence that are proportionate to the associated risk
- be flexible and responsive to any future food challenges
Each of the different areas within our system (policy makers, standard setters and enforcers) has a different relationship with these diverse groups of people, and consultation remains key to achieving the best regulatory outcomes. This is increasing as our food system is called upon to play a role in supporting public health objectives (for example, as part of obesity prevention strategies).