Current developments in food law and policy

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 1st April 2015
  1. Federal Cabinet still in disagreement on Country of Origin Reform

It was reported on 25 March 2015 that new Country of Origin Labelling laws will be delayed until at least August 2015 despite the Prime Minister’s announcement on 16 February 2015 that country of origin labelling proposals for reform would be released by Federal Cabinet “by the end of March 2015”.

An article in the March 2015 edition of FoodLegal Bulletin discussed the new proposals in “Government faces a Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) mouse trap”.

Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane, who along with Federal Agricultural Minister Barnaby Joyce was requested to prepare a submission, stated that the reason for the delay is to allow consumer testing of new ideas.

Proposals to be tested will include new logos and smartphone apps.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) news

  1. Independent Liquor Group receives penalty of $10,200 for false origin claims on beer

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) announced on 30 March 2015 that Independent Liquor Group (ILG) has received a $10,200 penalty after an ACCC infringement notice for labelling a product as “Aussie Beer”. The product, which was made in China, contained a “100% owned” claim over an Australian map, a statement that the product was “made from Australia’s finest malt” and featured green and gold colouring.

“Consumers will often place a premium on the provenance of a product, but are unable to check the accuracy of those claims. This is particularly the case with Australian made products which encourage consumers to support local industries. Consumers are entitled to expect that prominent representations made on packaging are accurate without having to check for disclosures in the fine print” said ACCC Chairman Rod Sims.

  1. Food manufacturers and retailers to no longer report food-related illnesses to ACCC

A media release on 19 March 2015 by Small Business Minister Bruce Billson has detailed new government legislation which no longer requires food manufacturers and retailers to report food-related illnesses or deaths to the ACCC. The move awaits Parliamentary approval.

Businesses will still have to report to State and Territory regulators. The purpose of the new legislation has been described as part of ‘reducing red tape’ by removing unnecessary requirements for businesses and saving time and money of both businesses and the ACCC.

  1. ACCC to appeal Pfizer decision

On 18 March 2015, the ACCC released a media statement announcing the ACCC has lodged a Notice of Appeal against the Federal Court decision dismissing ACCC proceedings against Pfizer.

The Federal Court rejected the ACCC’s claims that Pfizer had misused market power and engaged in exclusive dealing on the basis that Pfizer’s market power was no longer “substantial” and that ACCC had not established that Pfizer had intended to lessen competition.

ACCC Chairman Rod Sims stated that “Cases involving allegations of misuse of market power and anti-competitive practices will always be a priority of the ACCC. It is therefore important that the ACCC seeks clarity from the Full Court on issues of market power and anti-competitive purpose, such as those raised by this case.”

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) news:

  1. FSANZ calls for submissions on delaying dietary fibre claim provisions

On 24 March 2015, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) released a call for submissions on A1101 – Commencement of Dietary Fibre Claim Provisions.

Application A1101 was made by the Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC) seeking to delay the commencement of provisions in Standard 1.2.7 (Nutrition, Health and Related Claims) for nutrition content claims about dietary fibre from 18 January 2016 until 18 January 2017.

Submissions are due by 5 May 2015.

FoodLegal Bulletin article in April 2014 considered dietary fibre claims under Standard 1.2.7 in “Meeting the fibre criteria for CoPoNC and the relationship with Standard 1.2.7”.

  1. Proposal P235 abandoned

On 24 March 2015, FSANZ released a Draft Assessment Report (Abandonment) for Proposal P235: Review of Food-type Dietary Supplements.

Proposal P235 commenced in 2001 to develop a food standard to regulate food-type dietary supplements.

FSANZ stated that the Proposal is being abandoned due to significant changes to the food regulatory environment relating to food-type , as well as significant changes to the Food Standards Code including the introduction of Standards for Formulated Beverages and for Nutrition and Health Claims.

FSANZ further stated that “current and future changes” to the Food Standards Code are expected to address “many outstanding issues”.

The decision to abandon the Proposal is not reviewable under section 63 of the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991.

Other Australian food news:

  1. Marsh v Baxter GMO farming case appeal hearing commences

On 23 March 2015, the Western Australian Court of Appeal heard submissions by Western Australian organic farm Steve Marsh regarding a 2014 WA Supreme Court decision that found Mr Marsh’s neighbor was not responsible for damages caused by contamination of Mr Marsh’s farm from his neighbour’s Genetically Modified (GM) canola.

Mr Marsh and his wife Susan Marsh sued their conventional farmer neighbor Michael Baxter for growing a Genetically Modified (GM) canola crop which caused ‘contamination’ of the Marsh property that produced organically certified cereal crop and lamb.

FoodLegal Bulletin reported on the original court case in June 2014: “Landmark GM judgment points finger at organic certifying body

  1. Senate inquiry into red meat sector

On 18 March 2015 a new Senate inquiry into the red meat industry was established. The six month inquiry will focus on the effect of market consolidation and the potential for misuse of market power.

The inquiry was in part prompted by the boycott of Barnawartha sales and the takeover of Primo Smallgoods by Brazilian company JBS. Earlier in March 2015, major meat buyers boycotted regional cattle sales in Barnawartha causing significant price drops for farmers and large amounts of unsold cattle.

Farming groups including the Victorian Farmers Federation and the New South Wales Farmers Association have supported the inquiry.

International

  1. US and NZ argue Indonesia violating world trade rules

It was reported on 19 March 2015 that New Zealand and the United States have escalated a World Trade Organisation action against Indonesia for import restrictions which they argue are violating world trade rules by blocking imports of fruits and vegetables, animal products and other agricultural products.

The complaint was lodged originally in May 2014 by the two countries.

  1. World Health Organisation releases interim report of the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity

On 19 March 2015, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released the interim report of the Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity. For more information on the report, see our article in this edition of FoodLegal Bulletin “A critique of the World Health Organisation’s Gluckman Report on Child Obesity Policies”.

  1. World Health Organisation releases new sugar guidelines

On 4 March 2015 WHO released a new policy guidance for governments developing regulations for sugar consumption. The new guidance recommends significant reductions in daily intake of free sugars.

For more information, see the article in this edition of FoodLegal Bulletin “World Health Organisation publishes new sugar intake recommendations”.

New Zealand

  1. Submissions sought for NZ Food Safety Law Reform

A press statement released on 26 March 2015 has announced consultations have begun on the New Zealand Food Safety Law Reform Bill.

The Reform Bill is intended to address recommendations made from the Whey Protein Concentrate Contamination Inquiry and proposes amendments to the Animal Products Act 1999, the Food Act 2014 and the Wine Act 2003.

Industry and public feedback is sought. Submissions close 7 May 2015.

  1. New Zealand and Vietnam enter into joint Food Safety Cooperation Arrangement

On 19 March 2015 New Zealand Prime Minister John Key issued a press release announcing a joint Food Safety Cooperation Arrangement with Vietnam.

The Arrangement aims to promote recognition and consistency between the New Zealand and Vietnamese regulatory systems and to increase trade relations.

The Arrangement was signed by New Zealand Food Safety Minister Jo Goodhew and Vietnamese Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development Cao Duc Phat.

  1. Infant formula contamination threat

It was reported on 10 March 2015 that New Zealand police are investigating a threat to contaminate an infant formula product.

Tins of product have been tested after consumer complaints of pinpricks in packaging lids.

The threat was to contaminate the product with sodium monofluroacetate (1080), which is used as a pest control poison. The threat has been reported to have been made in protest over the use of 1080 as a pest control.

European Union

  1. EFSA releases exposure assessment for Quinoline Yellow (E104)

On 25 March 2015 the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published a “Refined exposure assessment for Quinoline Yellow (E104)”.

In 2009, the EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources Added to Food (ANS) published a scientific opinion on the re-evaluation of Quinonline Yellow (E104) which found that at maximum levels, intake estimates were above the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) of 0.5mg/kg body weight/day.

The European Commission requested a refined exposure assessment by EFSA. The new report has found that mean and high-level exposure estimates are below the ADI for all population groups.

  1. Aspartame study published by UK Food Standards Agency

On 19 March 2015 the UK Food Standards Agency published findings of a study by Hull York Medical School looking at human reactions of aspartame consumption.

The study, titled “Aspartame Sensitivity? A Double Blind Randomised Crossover Study” has also been published in PLOS One open-access journal. The study looks at human reactions on aspartame consumption comparing those form people who had reported previous symptoms to people with no reported symptoms. The study findings suggested that no difference occurred when consuming food containing aspartame to consumption of food without for people who had self-diagnosed as aspartame senstitive.

  1. EFSA publishes report: no evidence that Ebola can be transmitted through food

An EFSA report published on 18 March 2015 has stated that no evidence suggests the Ebola virus can be transmitted through food in the European Union.

The report assessed risk of transmission through the consumption of raw plant foods imported into the EU from African countries.

The report states that at the time of publishing, no cases of Ebola infection have been reported from consumption of these foods.

  1. EFSA sets intake values for Vitamin A

On 5 March 2015, EFSA published advice on Vitamin A intake based on research set by the Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA).

The advice sets out daily population reference intakes (PRIs) for vitamin A of:

  • 750 μg for men and 650 μg for women,
  • 250 to 750 μg for infants and children. and
  • 700 μg for pregnant women.

The higher value for pregnant women is due to the needs of the foetus and the growth of maternal tissues.

The March 2015 edition of FoodLegal Bulletin discussed recommended intakes for various nutrients in Australia in “Are the Food Standards Code’s Daily Intake amounts consistent with the NHMRC measurements?

  1. EFSA publishes scientific opinion on erythritol

On 5 March 2015 EFSA published a “Scientific Opinion on the safety of the proposed extension of use of erythritol (E 968) as a food additive” following a request from the European Commission.

The Scientific Opinion was prepared by the EFSA Panel on Food Additives and Nutrient Sources Added to Food.

In 2033, the European Union Scientific Committee on Foods concluded that erythritol is safe for use in foods, but had not yet been approved for beverages due to the increased potential for exceeding laxative thresholds, especially for young consumers.

The recent research considered the addition of erythritol at a maximum level of 1.6% as a flavour enhancer to non-alcoholic beverages. The Panel concluded that this level would not raise concerns for laxation.

United States

  1. US FDA approves genetically engineered apples and potatoes

On 20 March 2015, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two types of genetically engineered apples and six types of genetically engineered potatoes as safe for consumption.

The two apple types, collectively known as “Arctic Apple” were produced by Okanagan Specialty Fruits with reduced enzyme levels to prevent browning. Health Canada also approved the product on 20 March 2015.

The six potato types came from J. R. Simplot and have been engineered with reduced enzymes to resist bruise spots and to generate less acrylamide.

The FDA announced that they had “concluded that these foods are as safe and nutritious as their conventional counterparts”.

  1. Powdered alcohol permitted for sale in US

On 11 March 2015, a spokesman from the US Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (the Bureau) confirmed that the sale of a powdered alcohol product ‘Palcohol’ had been permitted for sale.

Four varieties of the product have been approved for sale (cosmospolitan, margarita, vodka and rum) and approval is being sought for a fifth variety. The product is sold in a foil pouch with directions to add water prior to consumption.

The product had been approved for sale in 2014 but this approval was retracted as the Bureau said it had been given ‘in error’.

The Bureau forms part of the US Department of Treasury and evaluates on whether the label forms an accurate description of the product.

The US FDA has evaluated the non-alcohol ingredients added to the product and found these to be in compliance with FDA’s regulations

Asia

  1. Cambodia food safety law

On 20 March 2015 a spokesman from the Cambodian Health Ministry stated a new food safety law is being drafted. The spokesman stated that the intention of the new law is to provide better consumer protection.

  1. Radioactive traces found in tea imported from Japan to Hong Kong ‘well below legal maximum level’

The Hong Kong government reported on 12 March 2015 that traces of radioactive cesium 137 had been found in a powered tea sample imported from Japan to Hong Kong.

The traces were reported to be far below the legal maximum level at 0.93 percent of the legal limit, and not considered a public health threat. The importer voluntarily recalled the product.

FoodLegal’s Upcoming Symposium on the new Food Standards Code

  1. FoodLegal’s upcoming Symposium 30 April 2015

Advance booking necessary. Tickets are selling quickly! For more details or to register, click here.

See more about current developments, and other articles here.