Australia’s food agency approves new version of the Food Standards Code
On 16 December 2014, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) released its approved version of the latest revision of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Food Standards Code). The new Food Standards Code requires only the approval by the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation and gazettal to become law.
In releasing the proposed new Food Standards Code, FSANZ stated that the key goal of the revision had been to make the Food Standards Code interact “more effectively” with State, Territory and Federal food legislation (including enforcement against infringement of the Food Standards Code as a criminal offence under the Food Act of each Australian jurisdiction), and to offer a clearer statement of the legal requirements.
Other principal changes include an update on provisions relating to permitted food additives, processing aids and nutritive substances added to various foods. State, Territory and Federal Acts prohibit the addition of substances to food products unless they are expressly permitted in the Food Standards Code.
While FSANZ has argued that the new Code seeks to make no changes to current permissions, FoodLegal expert Charles Fisher told Australian Food News that the new version of the Code imposes marketing restrictions where the old Code was previously silent. Mr Fisher also noted that regulators have complained about the apparent introduction of intention into strict liability offences in relation to using restricted substances.
Once the revision is active, all standards in Chapters 1 (General Food Standards) and 2 (Food Product Standards) of the current Code will be replaced and made into individual legislative instruments. The current Chapters 3 (Food Safety Standards) and 4 (Primary Production Standards) will be maintained, and a dictionary of defined terms is to be added to assist in user understanding.
Unlike the previous consolidated update of the Food Standards Code, which occurred in 2002, FSANZ has proposed that no transition period is necessary. Instead, FSANZ is proposing the new Code will commence on the same day the current version ceases application, currently proposed to be 1 March 2016. There is also discussion occurring as to whether a stock-in-trade concession will be applicable.
FSANZ last sought comment in July 2014 on its draft revision but gave its final approval to the revised version on 4 December 2014.