Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has been given a grant to create an international food safety forum.

The almost AU $500,000 (U.S. $363,000) award was announced by the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.

FSANZ hopes it will initially include Australia, China, the Republic of Korea, Japan and Singapore before potentially adding other members.

David Hazlehurst, Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment deputy secretary, said the forum would improve cooperation across the Asia Pacific area.

“By bringing these countries together, FSANZ will organize collaboration between food safety agencies across countries,” he said.

“The forum will aim to find areas where different countries can work together on food safety projects that promote science and risk-based approaches, are consistent with international standards and benefit trade. This forum will also mean FSANZ can work with other countries on projects that support two-way trade between markets.”

Planned rule changes for produce
FSANZ has also opened another public comment period on its review of food safety in the berries, leafy vegetables and melons industries.

The agency assessed four regulatory and non-regulatory options for each sector to identify a way to improve food safety management and reduce rates of foodborne illness.

FSANZ’s preferred approach is to introduce a combination of regulatory and non-regulatory measures on-farm and during initial processing to manage food safety in these sectors.

The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code would be amended to include a primary production and processing standard for the three sectors, and guidance would be developed to help businesses to understand and comply with the standards.

Sandra Cuthbert, FSANZ interim CEO, said the agency considered a variety of factors in its assessment.

“We took into account food safety risks, costs of foodborne illness, coverage of existing industry schemes, the lack of a national approach, cost-benefit and submissions to our first round of consultation when reviewing the options for each sector,” she said.

“The food safety management measures included in the draft proposed standards would align with those in existing industry food safety schemes, to support cost-effective implementation by businesses already participating in such schemes. Should the proposed draft standards be introduced, they would create a level playing field for businesses in managing food safety and further strengthen consumer confidence in the safety of this fresh produce.”

All FSANZ decisions on proposals to develop or update standards are notified to the ministers responsible for food regulation in Australia and New Zealand who decide if it should become law.

Interested parties can submit comments on the proposed measures until Feb. 9, 2022.

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