The joint food regulation system is the system of policy and laws in Australia and New Zealand relating to food. All levels of Australian and New Zealand governments are involved and have responsibilities for parts of the system: the setting of food policy; the making of food standards; and the implementation and enforcement of food regulation. Collectively, these bodies aim to:
- protect the health and safety of consumers by reducing risks related to food
- enable consumers to make informed choices about food by ensuring that they have sufficient information and by preventing them from being misled
- support public health objectives by promoting healthy food choices, maintaining and enhancing the nutritional qualities of food and responding to specific public health issues
- enable the existence of a strong, sustainable food industry to assist in achieving a diverse, affordable food supply and also for the general economic benefit of Australia and New Zealand.
In pursuing these aims, the overriding priority will always be protecting public health and safety.
A number of important documents form integral parts of the joint food regulation system such as the Joint Food Standards Treaty between Australia and New Zealand, the Food Regulation Agreement (Australia) and the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991 (FSANZ Act). Each of these documents contains an articulation of objectives or principles for food regulation.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has been established under the FSANZ Act to develop government regulations that are commonly referred to as food standards. The food standards can be viewed on the FSANZ website. The Australian State and Territory governments and the New Zealand government implement and enforce the food standards developed by FSANZ through their respective laws. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) enforces the Food Standards Code at the border in relation to imported food through the Imported Food Control Act 1992.
The joint food regulation system is overseen by a forum of Ministers called the Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation (the Forum). The Forum has responsibility for developing food regulation policy, and can request that a food standard be developed. The Forum signs off on all food standards and can also request that a draft standard be reviewed, amended or rejected. The Forum Members are the decision makers in the system.
Government has two distinct roles. Firstly, there are the requirements, as outlined above, that government itself imposes on the joint food regulation 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 Forum makes decisions by consensus. However the Forum can resolve matters by voting. Each of the ten government parties has one vote, and six votes are required for a decision.
In 2008, the Overarching Strategic Statement for the Food Regulatory System was endorsed. The document provides the strategic context for the joint food regulation system. The document articulates the scope and objectives of the joint food regulation system and the approach that will be taken to policy development, standard setting and implementation.
Figure 1 depicts the joint food regulation system and how Australia and New Zealand operate within it. In particular, it demonstrates the differences between the two countries when it comes to adopting food standards and how they are enforced by law.
Figure 1: The joint food regulation system
|Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC)||
Stakeholders include: individual consumers, industry bodies, primary producers, food manufacturers, importers and retailers, public health organisations, consumer advocacy organisations, community groups, and all levels of government in Australia and New Zealand.
Stakeholders have opportunities to engage and provide input at diff erent stages of the process, using a variety of mechanisms.
|Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation||The Forum can ask the FRSC to develop Policy Guidelines. Generally, food policies are only developed where a significant problem has been identified.|
|Food Standards Australia New Zealand||FSANZ develops joint food standards. If a Policy Guideline exists, FSANZ must take it into consideration (have regard to it). Not all food standards are established jointly. Australia and New Zealand have separate food standards in relation to:
|Food Standards Australia New Zealand Board||Joint food standards approved by the FSANZ Board are notified to the Forum for consideration.|
|Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation||The Forum can ask FSANZ to review an approved food standard; and following a review can amend or reject the standard. This step replaces the Parliamentary debate that normally occurs when laws are created.|
|Joint Standards that are finalised become part of the Food Standards Code||
Under exceptional circumstances, New Zealand can opt-out of a joint food standard and/or create a New Zealand only food standard.
In Australia, food standards in the Food Standards Code are law and are enforced by the States and Territories under their own laws. DAFF is responsible for enforcing food regulations at the border in relation to imported food.
In New Zealand, an extra step is required to put the joint food standards into law. The Minister must issue a notice to incorporate the standard into New Zealand food law.
|The Implementation Subcommittee for Food Regulation (ISFR)||ISFR is a subcommittee of the FRSC. Its role is to develop and oversee a consistent approach to implementation and enforcement of food standards across and between jurisdictions.|
Table 1 below provides more detail of the roles of the different committees in the food regulation system.
Table 1: Roles and responsibilities in the food regulation system
|POLICY DEVELOPMENT||Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation (Forum)||Develops policy guidelines for setting domestic food standards for Australia and New Zealand. Promotes harmonised food standards within Australia and New Zealand. The general oversight of the implementation of domestic food regulation and standards. Promotes a consistent approach to the compliance with, and enforcement of, food standards.||A Commonwealth Minister with responsibility for Health.||One or more Ministers with responsibility for food regulation from the Commonwealth and Australian states and territories and one Minister with responsibility for food regulation from New Zealand.1||
Stakeholders include: individual consumers, industry bodies, primary producers, food manufacturers, importers and retailers, public health organisations, consumer advocacy organisations, and community groups, among others.
|Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC)||Provides advice (including policy advice) to the Forum. Ensures a nationally consistent approach to the implementation and enforcement of food standards.||Secretary of the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing.||Commonwealth, New Zealand and Australian state and territory senior offi cials responsible for food regulation policy, Australian Local Government Association, and Chief Executive Officer of FSANZ as an observer.2|
|FRSC Working Groups||After Ministers determine that a policy needs to be developed FRSC sets up a FRSC working group.||A FRSC member.||Commonwealth, New Zealand and Australian state and territory senior officials.|
|STANDARD DEVELOPMENT||Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) Board||The Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991 (the FSANZ Act) established the FSANZ Board and its office. FSANZ develops food standards and has an established, accountable, consultative and transparent approach to stakeholder engagement.||Appointment considered by the Forum before the end of terms of appointment.||The Board has twelve members, appointed for terms and under conditions outlined in the FSANZ Act.3|
|The Forum can ask FSANZ to review an approved food standard; and following a review can amend or reject the standard. This step replaces the Parliamentary debate that normally occurs when laws are created.||See above.||See above.|
|STANDARD IMPLEMENTATION||Australian State and Territory and New Zealand Government Agencies
Undertake implementation and enforcement
|Implementation Subcommittee for Food Regulation (ISFR)||Develops and implements a nationally consistent approach to the implementation of food standards and regulations. Develops, or assists in developing, guidelines on consistent enforcement of food regulation. Consults with, and provides high level advice to, FSANZ.||Appointment considered by FRSC (every 2 years).||Commonwealth, New Zealand and Australian state and territory senior offi cials responsible for food regulation, FSANZ, and Australian Local Government Association.4|
Food Regulation Secretariat
The Secretariat that provides administrative support to the Forum, FRSC and ISFR is located within the Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing, but it operates independently in relation to its day-to-day functions.