FSANZ seeks public comment on mandatory iodine fortification and genetically modified corn

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 23rd April 2008

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is seeking public comment on changes it is considering making to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code).

The first change is a proposal to amend the Code to require the mandatory fortification of bread with iodine in Australia.

The second follows an application from Syngenta Seeds Pty Ltd for permission to sell and use food derived from a new genetically modified (GM) variety of corn.

When we receive an application to change food regulations, or propose one in the public interest – such as iodine fortification, we assess the risks to consumers of making that change and consider various regulatory options to minimise those risks. In matters of public health and safety, we adopt a cautionary and conservative approach. If there is doubt about the safety of a new food or a change to an existing one, we will either prohibit its sale or approve it only under stringent conditions.

The public comment process ensures FSANZ has as much evidence as possible to make the best decisions for the benefit of all.

Proposal P1003 Assessment – Mandatory Iodine Fortification for Australia

With this proposal we are considering the mandatory fortification of bread with iodine to reduce iodine deficiency in Australia. Scientists worldwide agree that iodine deficiency can have a negative impact on mental and nervous system development in babies and young children, and increases the risk of some forms of thyroid disease, especially in the elderly.

In May 2004, the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council (Ministerial Council) asked us to consider mandatory fortification with iodine as a matter of priority. In response, we prepared Proposal P230 – Consideration of Mandatory Fortification with Iodine.

Initially, the Ministerial Council intended this Proposal to address iodine deficiency in both Australia and New Zealand. However, just before completing it, we were asked to defer its introduction in Australia while Australian Health Ministers re-evaluated the evidence on the prevalence and severity of iodine deficiency in this country. In the interim, in recognition of the proven magnitude and severity of iodine deficiency in New Zealand, we completed Proposal P230 to create a separate Food Standard for New Zealand.

We now have advice from Health Ministers that we should be considering a similar Food Standard for Australia. We are proposing that a mandatory iodine fortification Standard for Australia be the same as the one we have already produced for New Zealand, with the same food vehicle (iodised salt in bread) and the same salt iodisation range. The objective of this new Proposal is to amend the New Zealand only Standard to become a joint Standard for both Australia and New Zealand.

Application A1001 Assessment – Food derived from Insect-protected Corn Line MIR162

Syngenta Seeds Pty Ltd has asked us to amend the Code, specifically Food Standard 1.5.2 which regulates food produced using Gene Technology, to permit the sale and use of food derived from its new GM variety of corn, MIR162. Standard 1.5.2 requires that GM foods undergo a pre-market safety assessment before they may be sold in Australia and New Zealand.

Syngenta has genetically modified MIR162 corn to protect it against feeding damage caused by the larvae of certain insect pest species. The company intended the corn to be grown in North America. However, once commercialised, GM corn products may be imported into Australia and New Zealand. FSANZ approval is therefore necessary before these products may enter the Australian and New Zealand markets.

Submissions: FSANZ welcomes public comment from industry, public health professionals, government agencies and consumers. Details of all the assessments above can be found on www.foodstandards.gov.au. Submissions close on 20 May 2008 for Proposal P1003 Assessment Mandatory Iodine Fortification for Australia and on 23 May 2008 for Application A1001 – Assessment Food derived from Insect-protected Corn.