As BSE rumbles on, so food safety remains in the spotlight. The second in our series of profiles of national food safety authorities, this week takes a look at one of the more established and one of the youngest agencies, namely Australia/New Zealand and Ireland. How do their remits and powers differ?

Country: Australia New Zealand

Name: The Australia New Zealand Food Authority


A National Food Authority for Australia was established in 1990 as an Australian federal body, and is based in Canberra. In March 1996 it became a bilateral joint body with New Zealand – becoming the Australia/New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) – when both governments, through a unique arrangement, combined their two national systems.*


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ANZFA operates as a statutory body under the Australia New Zealand Food Authority aimed at achieving bilateral uniformity in food regulation. Within the Australian government, ANZFA is a statutory authority located within the Commonwealth Health and Family Services. ANZFA has an independent Board with representatives from industry, community interest groups and the scientific community.*

ANZFA has a part-time Chairman, a Managing Director and seven other members, two of whom are nominated by the New Zealand government. Members are appointed for their expertise in one or more of the following fields: public health, food science, human nutrition, food production or retailing, consumer rights and public administration.

ANZFA works with a council of Health Ministers and the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council (ANZFSC) to develop and maintain laws and systems which regulate food in Australia and New Zealand. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Australian Commonwealth Minister for Health and Family Services has executive responsibility for ANZFA.

Objectives and Responsibilities:

  • Protect public health and safety
  • Provide adequate information to consumers to enable informed choice and prevent fraud and deception
  • Promote fair trade in food
  • Promote trade and commerce in the food industry
  • Promote consistency between domestic and international food standards
  • Coordinate surveillance of food available in Australia/New Zealand
  • Coordinate food product recalls in cooperation with the State and Territories
  • Conduct research on matters that may be included in a food standard
  • Undertake food safety education initiatives
  • Develop Codes of Practice for industry on matters regarding a food standard
  • Develop risk assessment policies for imported food


The process of setting food standards is specified in legislation and requires an open, consultative process. Independent analysis shows that ANZFA is very well respected by government, industry and community interest group stakeholders alike. The features of ANZFA most valued by them are its independence, reflected in its Board; being based within the health portfolio and thus removed from industry vested interests and given a clear public health focus, and the scientific and open, consultative nature of decision-making.*

*Tim Lang, Erik Millstone & Mike Rayner, Centre for Food Policy, Thames Valley University, London

Country: Ireland

Name: The Food Safety Authority of Ireland


The new Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) was formally established on January 1, 1999. On November 6, 1996, the Cabinet of the Irish Republic announced its decision to establish a Food Safety Board. This interim board received over 50 submissions from the general public and professional bodies on issues relating to food safety and hygiene. In July 1998, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland Act was passed. This Act established the Food Safety Authority of Ireland and provided for it to take over all the regulatory functions of existing agencies. The Authority now holds a wide range of powers, which enable it to trace all food products from “farm to fork.”


The Authority is a statutory, independent and science-based body, dedicated to protecting public health and consumer interests in food safety and hygiene. It comes under the aegis of the Minister for Health and Children and has a Board of five. It also has a 15-member Scientific Committee that assists and advises the Board. The Authority’s key functions are to operate the national food safety compliance programme by means of service contracts with the agencies involved in the enforcement of food legislation. A unique aspect of the Authority’s structure is the full power invested in its officers to enter premises, seize documents and samples, and issue closure orders.

Objectives and Responsibilities:

  • Develop a seamless inspection system that underpins the development of the very highest standards in all areas of food production and supply
  • Research, advise and coordinate services and food certification. It is empowered to follow the food chain as far back as is necessary in order to deal with any situation giving rise to concerns about the safety and hygiene of food. Its officers have full powers to enter premises, seize documents and samples, issue improvement notices and closure orders and prohibit the sale of food considered unfit for human consumption.
  • Work with industry and training professionals to improve, harmonise and coordinate food safety and hygiene training. The Authority can also publish reports on any matter related to its remits and functions.
  • In particular, publish an annual report to the House of Oireachtas
  • Members of the Board, the Scientific Committee, senior staff and consultants are required to make full declarations of interests. This is designed to reinforce the role of the Authority as an independent science-based body.
  • The Authority does not have any role in relation to the commercial developments in the food industry.
  • The Authority has a general duty to consult widely with consumers, producers, retailers, distributors, caterers and manufacturers in relation to food safety.


Differing from the USA, UK, Australia and New Zealand food authorities, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) specifically gives its officers “full powers to enter premises, seize documents and samples, issue improvement notices and closure orders,” as well as prohibiting the sale of food considered unfit for human consumption. The Authority states that “each year many people suffer from food poisoning. Many of these cases could be prevented by people being more aware of how to handle food safely. The Authority sees one of its key roles as helping people understand the causes of food poisoning.”

By Aaron Priel, correspondent

To see PART ONE of this feature, focusing on National Food Standards Authorities in the UK and the US Click Here

To see PART THREE of this feature, focusing on National Food Standards Authorities in the Canada and Sweden Click Here

To see PART FOUR of this feature, focusing on National Food Standards Authorities in Denmark and Germany Click Here

To see PART FIVE of this feature, focusing on National Food Standards Authorities in Finland and France Click Here