The Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) today invited public comment on a number of proposed changes to the Food Standards Code, including the use of industrial hemp as a novel food, enforcement levels for two antibiotics in cattle milk, use of a marine micro-algae as a novel food ingredient and a genetically modified corn.

ANZFA’s Managing Director Ian Lindenmayer said Australia and New Zealand have one of the most transparent and inclusive processes in the world when it comes to changing food standards.

“This approach was followed at every step in developing the new Food Standards Code, which contains some of the most modern and progressive national food standards to be found anywhere,” Mr Lindenmayer said.

“The input from community groups, public health and scientific organisations, industry and government in its development was considerable – and it continues to be vital as we carry on with the work of refining the food standards to ensure the continuing safety of the food supply, while facilitating innovation in food composition and production methods.

“I invite individuals and organisations with an interest in the changes under discussion to send their views and comments to ANZFA, where they will be carefully assessed.”

Industrial hemp as a novel food (A360) (submissions by 6 February 2002)

Industrial hemp is reported to be an excellent source of unsaturated fatty acids and an additional source of essential fatty acids.  However, in Australia and New Zealand hemp is a non-traditional food and is therefore considered a novel food because there is no history of safe use in the community.  The sale of hemp food products is currently prohibited.

For that reason, the application has been the subject of rigorous scientific assessment by ANZFA.  ANZFA has found that foods produced from industrial hemp – that is, hemp containing negligible levels of the hallucinogen THC – do not raise public health and safety concerns.
There is widespread use of industrial hemp as a food elsewhere in the world.  Hemp-based products such as hempseed and hempseed oil can provide consumer health benefits.  The ANZFA Board has approved a Draft Assessment that recommends approval of industrial hemp as a novel food.

The Board will finalise its advice on this application once it has received and considered public and stakeholder group submissions.

Marine micro-algae as a novel food ingredient (A428) (submissions by 6 February 2002)

Omega-3 long-chain fatty acids such as DHA have been identified as important dietary nutrients which are particularly important in the developing foetus and pre-term infants. 
DHA can be obtained from the micro-algae Schizochytrium, which occurs widely in marine habitats but, to date, has not been used for human consumption.  DHA from other sources, such as fish oil, is already present in the human diet in certain foods and for infants in breast milk.

An application has been received to permit the use of DHA-rich marine micro algae and its oils as a novel food, in a number of foods and drinks.  ANZFA is satisfied that the micro-algae or the oil derived from it are comparable to other traditional sources of DHA and do not raise any safety concerns regarding other minor ingredients. 

Maximum residue limits for two antibiotics (A440) (submissions by 23 January 2002- Australia only)

The National Registration Authority (NRA) approves the use of agricultural and veterinary chemicals and sets maximum residue limits (MRLs) for these chemicals in foods.  ANZFA ensures that the residues associated with the MRL present no challenge to public health and safety through the food supply and, if satisfied, recommends their incorporation into the Food Standards Code.

The NRA has applied to change the MRL for the antibiotic cloxacillin in cattle milk and to add a new MRL for the antibiotic ampicillin in cattle milk to assist in enforcement. 

Ampicillin is registered by the NRA only for therapeutic single-animal use for mastitis and detectable residues are not expected.   ANZFA considers that the addition of an enforcement level MRL for ampicillin is appropriate and believes that the residues associated with the
proposed MRL are safe.

A genetically modified corn (A416) (submissions by 23 January 2002)

Genetically modified foods must pass a rigorous safety assessment before ANZFA recommends their approval for sale in Australia and New Zealand. To date, 23 applications have been received for safety assessment (two withdrawn); 16 have already been approved.  This application is for a corn that has been genetically modified to be tolerant to the herbicide

ANZFA has concluded that, on the basis of available data, the glyphosate-tolerant corn is as safe for human consumption as food derived from conventional varieties of corn.  Its nutritional properties are also equivalent to food from conventional corn varieties.

Labelling statements on modified milks (P240) (submissions by 6 February 2002)

ANZFA has raised this proposal regarding the need for advisory statements on reduced fat and condensed milks to alert carers of children to the inappropriateness of feeding these milks as the main source of milk to children under the age of two.  Warning statements already appear on modified milks.

Comments on an Initial Assessment have already been received from major interest groups and stakeholders.  The Draft Assessment currently being released for public comment now seeks community consultation on a more fully developed proposal.

More information: Copies of the Draft Assessment Reports associated with the applications discussed above can be found on the ANZFA website at <>.  Other proposed changes to the Food Standards Code are also listed on the website, including caffeine in soft drinks.