Food Safety Law Reform Bill passed
Food Safety Minister Damien O’Connor has today welcomed the passing of the Food Safety Law Reform Bill into law.
The new law addresses the recommendations from the Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) Contamination Inquiry.
“New Zealand has made substantial progress in putting in place the WPC Inquiry recommendations operationally, but some recommendations needed legislative change,” Mr O’Connor says.
“The Food Safety Law Reform Bill addressed these recommendations and its passage will reinforce New Zealand’s reputation as a reliable supplier of safe and suitable food.”
The Bill amends the Animal Products Act 1999, Food Act 2014, and Wine Act 2003 so improvements, recommended by the dairy-focused WPC Inquiry, apply across the system.
“Many modern businesses work under more than one food safety Act. Better aligned processes under these three food safety Acts means there will be a more consistent approach for businesses across the whole food safety system.
“The new law includes a range of changes to strengthen our responses to food safety incidents, create a more consistent and fair approach to enforcement for non-compliance, and improve the Government’s accessibility to information from third-parties. It also allows us to create regulations where food and medicines converge.
“The law supports other steps the Government is taking to ensure the New Zealand food safety system is strengthened and continues to remain fit for purpose,” Mr O’Connor says.
What is the Food Safety Law Reform Bill?
Some of the recommendations from the Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) Contamination Inquiry required changes to the legislation. The Food Safety Law Reform Bill addressed these recommendations.
The legislation supports other steps the Government is taking to ensure the New Zealand food safety system is strengthened and continues to remain fit for purpose.
What was the WPC incident?
The WPC contamination incident in 2013 originated from a suspected contamination of whey protein concentrate with clostridium botulinum. After extensive tracking and a precautionary recall, authorities were able to establish that products were not contaminated.
The Government Inquiry into the Whey Protein Concentrate Contamination Incident concluded that New Zealand’s food safety regulatory model is consistent with international principles and is among the best in the world.
However the Inquiry took the opportunity to recommend some changes to further strengthen the system. The Government has accepted all the recommendations and has made substantial progress with implementing these, most of which are being or have been implemented by non-regulatory means.
What are the changes under the FSLR Act?
The new law amends the Animal Products Act 1999, Food Act 2014, and Wine Act 2003 to further strengthen our food safety regulatory system. These three Acts are the main food safety legislation that underpins New Zealand’s reputation as a reliable supplier of safe and suitable food.
As well as implementing the WPC Inquiry recommendations, the amendments provide further consistency and better align some of the processes and systems under all three Acts, such as the ability to use electronic systems and consistent enforcement tools.
The key things that the new law does are:
- enables regulations to set the content and format of the parts of custom risk management programmes and plans that must be provided to MPI for registration, and allows the Director-General to require amendments to programmes and plans if they are not able to be easily understood;
- enables regulations to provide more-detailed traceability obligations and provide the ability for the Government to set recall requirements as needed, given the importance of traceability to New Zealand’s food safety and reputation;
- allows New Zealand to create regulations where food and medicines converge;
- adds enforcement tools currently in the Food Act (improvement notices, an infringement regime, compliance orders, and penalties based on commercial gain) to the Animal Products Act and Wine Act, to help develop a more consistent and fair approach to enforcement for non-compliance across the food safety system;
- allows Government to require businesses and individuals that deliver services to food operators (for example, research and diagnostic laboratories) to provide information relevant to managing serious food safety incidents. Having essential information during an incident is crucial for determining the scale of response required. The law includes safeguards to protect the supplier of the information;
- clarifies that when recognised agencies and persons are providing verification and evaluation services, their primary accountability is to the regulator;
- modernises the legislation by harmonising the Acts to allow use of automated electronic systems for statutory functions, for example issuing export certifications;
- addresses the WPC Inquiry’s concern about the increased use of tertiary notices for dairy regulation by providing a best practice framework for the use of regulations and notices.
Who will the new law affect?
To some degree, any food business regulated under the Animal Products Act, Food Act, or Wine Act may potentially be affected. In addition, agencies or people providing services to businesses in the food sector (such as research and diagnostic laboratories) may be affected if a serious food incident occurs.
Are these changes indicative of issues with the current laws?
No, these changes do not indicate that there are issues with the current food safety laws. New Zealand has a strong domestic and international reputation for food safety. But as part of maintaining our regulatory model we are always looking to improve our system to better enable New Zealand businesses to take advantage of the changing food production and export landscape.