Ministers responsible for food safety in Australia and New Zealand are accepting comments until Friday on part of draft Intergovernmental Agreements that will help consumers and the food industry better understand food regulation down under.

Nationally consistent and useful information on food standards are major concerns for both the public and the food industry.

“It is important that all sections of the community understand our food standards and that as far as possible that the way we regulate food be nationally consistent,” said Mark Butler, the Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Health.

Butler met with members of the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council last Friday in Melbourne.

“The Ministerial Council is developing this agreement at the request of the Council of Australian Government (COAG) which has identified the need for food regulation reform as a national policy,” Butler added.

“The Ministerial Council members agreed …that the engagement of all Australian jurisdictions was essential to the effective implement of a centralized advice system and Australia and New Zealand are working cooperatively towards a joint approach,” he continued.  “This draft agreement will now go to COAG for their consideration.”

Other subjects covered by the Ministerial Council included reviewing;

-A caffeinated energy drink compliance strategy, including current scientific evidence.

-A proposed food labeling law with a policy review.

-A report by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) on Bisphenol A (BPA) chemicals used in the plastic industry in baby bottles and food containers.

The Ministerial Council heard reports on international developments on BPA, including the assessment by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).   At Butler’s request, FSANZ is reviewing Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) for fresh beef to “remove its inconsistency” in application across unpackaged meat, particularly in beef.

Written comments on food labeling will be accepted until Friday, May 14 at Submissions and further research will be used to develop a draft report that will include recommendations and the rational underpinnings.  

The final report is due to the Ministerial Council in late 2010 and to COAG in early 2011.