Recent amendments to the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) Act 1991 are said to improve assessment procedures and efficiency, benefitting food manufacturers proposing changes to the Food Standards Code.
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A review of the assessment procedure by the Food Regulation Standing Committee confirmed the strengths of the system, including its focus on public health and safety, as well as its weaknesses, namely the timeframe for decision making and the single method used for assessment regardless of the scope of the proposed change.
Under the new FSANZ Act, which came into force on October 1, 2007, applications will be sorted into three streams, general, minor and major, based on their level of complexity.
An appropriate amount of time and corresponding level of public consultation will be given depending on the assessment stream, significantly reducing assessment time and preventing application backlogs.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Aging Senator Brett Mason, said the amendments recognised the changing environment for food safety and innovation and demonstrated the Australian Government’s commitment to transparent and accountable food regulation.
“For people making applications to amend a food standard, it will be an easier process with more certainty and transparency,” Senator Mason said.
The majority of applications will take nine months to process, as opposed to the 16-month average under the previous Act.
Minor amendments to the Code will be processed within three months and major amendments, including the development of a new food standard or a complex variation to an existing regulation, will take up to 12 months.
Applications assessed in the general stream will be subject to one round of public comment, and major changes will require two rounds.
Members of the food industry or public submitting applications will now need to adhere to guidelines in the Application Handbook, available on the FSANZ website, or risk having their applications rejected.
Prior to the amendments a guideline resource for applicants did not exist.
The Applicant Handbook was introduced to provide applicants with more guidance and direction, enhancing the system’s efficiency and simplicity.
Now that you have read about the changes to the FSANZ Act, tell us whether or not they will benefit you and your company by voting on the news barometer, which is used to drive future editorial online and in the magazine.