New Food Bill introduced to Parliament

  • Kate Wilkinson
Food Safety

A new Bill that overhauls the outdated Food Act 1981 has been introduced to Parliament, Minister for Food Safety Kate Wilkinson announced today.

"The Food Act has not been updated for 30 years and our current regulatory system is not as effective and efficient as it could be. 

"We have recently seen regional inconsistencies in how councils apply the current law, which will be addressed. There also remains a significant incidence of food-borne illness in New Zealand and more can be done to protect consumers," Ms Wilkinson says.

The new Food Bill has been developed over the past three years and is aligned with the New Zealand Standard platform, which provides the basis for our food exports.

It includes Schedules that set out what risk-based measure will apply to each food sector and increase the number of sectors required to operate under National Programmes.

"This Bill will ensure businesses take primary responsibility for the safety of the food they are selling. They will know what is required of them and will be regulated relative to the degree of risk posed.

"Organisers of community-based fundraising activities like cake stalls and sausage sizzles won't need to jump through hoops. 

"Food handler guidance will be made available to these people to help them keep food safe and local councils will have more certainty around their role in regulating food premises.

"Ultimately this Bill will make it easier for food businesses to understand how safe food needs to be produced.  It will also provide consumers with greater confidence that their food is safe."

After its first reading the Food Bill will be referred to the Primary Production Select Committee and is expected to be enacted by 31 March 2011.

Background

  • The new Bill:
  • o Provides a regulatory framework to enable businesses to take primary responsibility for the sale of safe and suitable food. Food businesses will be regulated relative to the degree of risk a food selling activity poses. The risk management tools are:
  • § food control plans for high-risk businesses such as restaurants;
  • § national programmes for medium to low risk businesses, such as horticulture producers;
  • § food handler guidance - educational information for low risk operations, such as fundraising activities; and
  • § monitoring programmes (set by regulation) to impose measures (in specified circumstances) for determining the safety and suitability of food.
  • o Provides certainty for food businesses in terms of their obligations under the law, and how activities will be regulated;
  • o Introduces specific requirements for imported food - all persons importing food will have a duty to ensure it meets the same standards as domestically produced food, and every consignment of food imported into New Zealand requires a registered importer;
  • o Maintains the role of Government as the principal regulator, and retains a local government role in the regulation of food premises;
  • o Has modernised penalty provisions - the current penalties are inadequate for 2010 and beyond;and
  • o Sets out exactly what the base statutory requirements will be for each and every type of food production and trading activity.