The Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) has invited public comment on proposed changes to the Food Standards Code (FSC), including approval for the sale of food derived from GM cotton, two novel foods and a declaration of MSG by restaurants and food outlets.

ANZFA’s MD Ian Lindenmayer said the proposed changes were but the latest to a code that will continue to evolve in the light of changing needs of consumers and industry, and advances in food science and nutrition.

“On or about 1 July this year, ANZFA will be re-designated as Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), with new responsibilities,” Lindenmayer said: “However, the new organisation will continue to provide the Australian and New Zealand communities with a transparent and independent process for changing food regulations.

“ANZFA’s reputation for high-level scientific investigation, collaboration with stakeholders and regard for consumer health and safety will be inherited by FSANZ and applied not only to the current foods in the FSC, but also to primary production and processing standards for foods such as meat and dairy.”

Insect-protected GM cotton (A436) – final assessment

In July 2000, a cotton that had been genetically modified to protect it from insect attack (Bollgard II cotton) was approved by the Food Standards Council after ANZFA found that oil and linters from this cotton were as safe and wholesome as those from other commercially available cotton varieties. The protection was achieved by incorporating the Bacillus
thuringiensis (Bt) gene.

One further Bt gene has now been introduced into this cotton to provide additional protection from insects and to delay the development of insect resistance to the Bt toxin. ANZFA has assessed oil and linters from this new GM cotton (Ingard II cotton) to be as safe for human consumption as those from other commercial varieties.

Mandatory declaration of MSG by restaurants (A432) – draft assessment

The FSC requires MSG and a number of other glutamates to be specifically identified on a food package when they are added to a food as flavouring. This requirement does not extend to unpackaged food and food prepared in restaurants and other types of food outlets. The NSW Department of Health has applied to seek an amendment to the FSC to make it mandatory for food outlets, including restaurants and take-aways, to declare if MSG has been added during food preparation. In addressing this issue, ANZFA will need to determine whether and to what extent MSG is responsible for causing adverse reactions among consumers and, if so, whether such labelling is needed to address any health risk.

Wine production standard (Australia only) (P253) – final assessment

The old Australian FSC imposes certain requirements for all wines produced in Australia which ensure that they qualify to gain ready access to the European Union market as wines of designated quality and origin.

Australian wine sales to the EU may be jeopardised when, at the end of the two-year transition period, the old FSC is repealed, to be replaced by the new joint Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. This Proposal maintains the status quo by transferring the production provisions for wine made in Australia in the old Code to an Australia-only Standard 4.1 in the new one.

Gamma-cyclodextrin (A438) and trehalose (A453) as novel foods – draft assessment

Novel foods are foods, ingredients or additives for which there is no history, or only limited history, of safe use in the community. Foods considered to be novel foods must undergo a safety assessment by ANZFA before they can be approved for use. Gamma-cyclodexin (novel food additive) can form complexes with natural colours, flavours and vitamins allowing its use as a carrier and stabiliser for these additives. Trehalose (novel food ingredient) is a disaccharide which, the applicant claims, exhibits the same technological properties as sucrose with a relative sweetness of 40-45% of that of sucrose.