Progress with latest FSANZ Food Standards changes
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), the agency responsible for setting food safety standards, has this week approved a number of important variations to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code or has proposed to do so.
The affected industries include the beverages sector, the fish sector, and the dairy sector.
More details are set out below:
- Australia adopts WHO standard for bottled water standard
The Code has been varied to adopt World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines on the maximum amounts of certain chemicals contained in packaged water, with the exception of fluoride.
According to the “Approval Report – Application A1043” issued by FSANZ, regulatory intervention was supported on the grounds that:
(1) The current selection of chemicals and their respective limits listed in the Table to subclause 2(2) of Standard 2.6.2, was not in keeping with contemporary national and international standards/guidelines for drinking water safety and the respective limits were not based on the best currently available evidence;
(2) The need to ensure a level playing field for locally produced (Australia and New Zealand) and imported packaged water.
A key consideration from a risk assessment perspective was whether the WHO guidelines represented maximum limits from a safety rather than a quality perspective. FSANZ was satisfied that the WHO guideline were established on safety grounds and were an appropriate set of chemical limits with respect to packaged water for adoption into the Code.
FSANZ also took into account the relevance of other guidelines or standards associated with water for human consumption and concluded that the WHO guidelines represented the most contemporary international set of limits that could be used for such purposes.
A single exception was made to adopting the chemical limits of the WHO guidelines as a whole into the Code. A maximum limit for fluoride of 1.0 mg/L was proposed and not 1.5 mg/L as indicated in the WHO guidelines. This maximum level is currently specified in clause 2A of Standard 2.6.2.
- FSANZ proposes ban on Carbon monoxide in fish
Food standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has assessed a Proposal was prepared to ban carbon monoxide as a processing aid in fish.
In a document released titled “Call for submissions – Proposal 1019. Carbon monoxide as a processing aid for fish”, FSANZ stated:
“The process of treating high value red-fleshed fish with carbon monoxide to maintain colour is well known and has been practised for at least 12 years in some parts of the world. Unlike other gases commonly used in fish and meat packaging (for instance nitrogen), carbon monoxide is neither inert nor are its effects reversible. Carbon monoxide treatment of fish is used where the red colour is an important quality attribute. Internationally it has been of concern because of its ability to hide the age of fish and potential food safety issues associated with poorly handled tuna.
Agencies responsible for enforcing the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code) have consistently regarded the treatment of fish with carbon monoxide gas to fish as not permitted by the Code.
It has been reported that some processors are using carbon monoxide as a processing aid during fish processing.
The purpose of this Proposal is to make it clear that, because carbon monoxide has an ongoing technological function in fish (colouring and/or colour fixing), it is not permitted to be used as a processing aid.
FSANZ has been advised that the current wording in the Code in regard to treating fish with carbon monoxide is not specific enough and that, as there is an established risk of its non permitted use in the treatment of fish in domestic and international trade, clarification is required to reinforce that this treatment is not permitted.”
An amendment to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code would bring Australia in line with international food standards. The treatment of fish with carbon monoxide gas is not permitted in the USA, Singapore, Canada, the EU and Japan.
FSANZ is calling for submissions in relation to this proposal to be made.
The closing date for submissions on this proposal is 11 February 2013.
- Phytosterol portion restrictions likely to be lifted on cheeses
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has announced that it has assessed an application made by Kraft Foods Australia to remove the current restriction on portion weights of cheese and processed cheese enriched with phytosterols.
Foods with phytosterols are marketed for their cholesterol-lowering function. (Other foods that may be fortified, subject to conditions, with phytosterols include some spreads and milk products).
FSANZ has removed the portion weight restriction for phytosterol enriched cheese and cheese products.
This was based on the information provided in the Application, the current scientific evidence on the safety of phytosterols added to food, consumer purchasing and consuming behaviour and the international regulatory approaches to phytosterol-enriched cheese and cheese products.
FSANZ approved the draft variation to the Standard on 6 December 2012.
The COAG Legislative and Governance Forum on Food Regulation (the Forum) was notified of FSANZ’s decision on 13 December 2012. The Forum has 60 days to request FSANZ to review the draft variations or to inform FSANZ that they do not intend to request a review.
Removing the portion weight restriction is likely to lead to the sale of additional larger portion weight options that could lead to greater availability of, and more convenient access to, phytosterol-enriched cheese and cheese products for consumers with cost savings and market benefits for industry.
Australian Food News previously reported (28 June 2012) on a similar application to amend the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code in relation to removing restrictions on package sizes for milk supplemented with phytosterol esters.