Moves by MAF and Ministry of Health to Make Food Products Safer

2 March 2000

Moves are afoot to make New Zealand food products safer to eat, and making food regulations easier and cheaper to meet for manufacturers and producers.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and the Ministry of Health are making good progress on a project to streamline the country’s food safety regulations, making them less complex and yet more thorough.

Currently the safety of food production is covered by three different Acts, making for a complex and costly set of requirements for many producers and processors. Those costs are inevitably passed on to the end consumer.

Under existing regulations, the Ministry of Health regulates the producers of food for domestic consumption through the Food Act and the Food Hygiene Regulations. Dairy producers have to comply with the Dairy Industry Act, and the processors of meat products must meet the requirements of the Animal Products Act. The latter two pieces of legislation are administered by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

MAF’s Food Assurance Authority Group Director, Andrew McKenzie, says this means food producers who manufacture for both the domestic and export markets, and who use dairy and meat products have to comply with three different pieces of legislation. It’s a system Mr McKenzie says is inefficient and undoubtedly results in higher costs to the consumer.

Government is moving towards a single integrated food administration system for New Zealand and the project to harmonise MAF and Ministry of Health regimes was initiated as an interim measure while final decisions are made on future structures.

It is recognised that New Zealand’s food safety programme has to meet a number of challenges. The risk of food borne illness is one. The programme must also ensure that the contribution made to the country’s economic well-being by food exports is protected. We currently export approximately 11 billion dollars of food and food related products each year. And New Zealand’s growing tourism industry relies on our reputation for excellent and safe food.

The change will see a move to a new philosophy in food safety. Instead of the old ‘big brother’ system of command and control through prescriptive requirements, all food businesses will have to adopt a risk-management approach.

Andrew McKenzie says this means the Government will set appropriate outcome based standards and industry will take full responsibility for producing safe food under risk management plans. These plans identify areas where risks happen in production, and set out ways to manage those risks. Independent verification will ensure industries have abided by their plans.

The move to harmonise food safety is being undertaken by a project team whose aim is to have all food premises in the country using risk management plans. "Their plan will ensure all of the key risks in production are addressed," says Mr McKenzie.

In the short term, the team is addressing the issues of how to best consult and communicate with people involved or affected by food risk management decisions; creating a risk management framework and systems for the approval of people, systems and facilities in the industry.

Mr McKenzie says the hard work will ultimately result in a credible New Zealand food safety regime, which will provide even better protection for consumers of New Zealand food.

For further information contact:

Andrew McKenzie, Food Assurance Authority Group Director, ph 04 474 4250

Contact MPI

for general enquiries phone

0800 00 83 33