Food Standards Australia New Zealand has today (Wednesday) invited consumers, public health professionals, food businesses and other bodies with an interest in food regulations to comment on a range of proposed changes to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.

The proposals include the addition of a range of vitamins and minerals to water-based drinks, maximum residue limits for antibiotics, use of a new genetically modified cotton as a food, and the introduction of mandatory food safety programmes to two potentially high-risk industry sectors.

FSANZ is an independent bi-national government agency responsible for setting regulations that govern the composition and labelling of food sold in Australia and New Zealand, as well as food hygiene rules to be followed by food businesses in Australia.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority has applied to FSANZ seeking to amend maximum residue limits for a number of antibiotics in the code.  FSANZ has reviewed the estimated dietary exposure assessments for these Applications. These assessments indicate that the residues associated with the proposed MRLs do not represent an unacceptable risk to public health and safety, it said.

Bayer CropScience Pty Ltd has applied for approval for a cotton variety containing a genetic trait that confers tolerance to the herbicide glufosinate ammonium.   Cotton is generally used as a food in the form of cottonseed oil.

Following a comprehensive safety assessment of this GM cotton, FSANZ has concluded that, when used as a food, it is as safe and as nutritious as food derived from non-GM cotton. There are no public health and safety concerns.    

The Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council has identified potentially high-risk business activities that should implement documented and audited food safety programmes. The provision of meals to vulnerable populations by hospitals, aged care facilities, childcare centres and other facilities catering specifically to vulnerable groups is one.

In developing a food standard to give effect to this ministerial decision, FSANZ has consulted widely with the food businesses concerned, the vulnerable populations themselves (the young, the sick, the elderly) and state and territory jurisdictions.  

The production of manufactured and fermented meats is another of the high risk activities identified. The industry has already recognised the need for stringent food safety management systems.  Most businesses are already operating under food safety programmes.