New Zealand Minister for Food Safety Kate Wilkinson announced that a new bill was introduced in Parliament to overhaul the Food Act 1981 last week.

The new Food Bill, which has been developed over the last three years, is aligned with the New Zealand Standard platform, which provides the basis for food exported from the country.  The bill includes schedules that lay out which risk-based measures will apply to each food sectors.

kiwi-new-zealand-featured.jpgWilkinson commented on the new bill in a statement:  “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.

“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.”

Wilkinson said regional inconsistencies in how councils apply current food law will be addressed.  

According to a press release issued by the New Zealand Government, the new Food Bill 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 programs 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 programs (set by regulation) to impose measures (in specified circumstances) for determining the safety and suitability of food.

Other provisions in the bill include:

– Providing certainty for food businesses in terms of their obligations under the law, and how activities will be regulated;

– Introducing 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;

– Maintaining the role of Government as the principal regulator, and retaining a local government role in the regulation of food premises;

– Modernizing penalty provisions–the current penalties are inadequate for 2010 and beyond; and

– Setting out exactly what the base statutory requirements will be for each and every type of food production and trading activity.

“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.”

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