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AUS: ANZFA Release On GMF Labelling

Tuesday, 3 August 1999

Health Ministers Agree To Extend Labelling Of Genetically Modified Food In Australia And New Zealand

Australian and New Zealand Health Ministers today agreed on a number of important issues about the safety of our food supply.

The Ministers met as the Australian New Zealand Food Standards Council (ANZFSC) in Canberra today. ANZFSC consists of the New Zealand and State and Territory Health Ministers and is chaired by Senator, the Hon Grant Tambling, Parliamentary Secretary to the Federal Minister for Health and Aged Care.

Food Safety

There will be ongoing safety assessments of all genetically modified (GM) products as required under the current standard which came into effect in May this year. Ministers also noted that no safety concerns have been shown towards any of the foods assessed at this stage.

The following important decisions were made:

Consumer Information on Genetically Modified Food

ANZFSC has agreed to require mandatory labelling of foods produced using gene technology and foods containing genetically modified ingredients.

ANZFSC further resolved to strengthen and enhance the decision of December 1998 by requesting ANZFA to further address the following issues and prepare appropriate amendments to the draft standard:

Methods of labelling and other supporting information that are practical, meaningful, and with the lowest possible compliance costs. Labels can include information that "foods might contain genetically modified ingredients approved by Health Authorities" and / or authorised symbols to reflect genetically modified content;

Other methods to provide consumers with meaningful information where the food is of uncertain origin, including:

point of sale information; education campaigns to supplement the standard; industry code of practice;

Identification of the true compliance costs to industry and governments of implementing the Standard;

Implications of the Standard for Aust./NZ obligations under the WTO agreement and Codex;

Threshold levels for labelling

for general food use; for refined substances;

Food marketed as containing no genetically modified ingredients;

claims must be able to be substantiated to ensure truth in labelling; a clearly identifiable and auditable food trail (identity preservation); criteria for establishing compliance and enforcement;

Means of testing of foods for compliance and enforcement of the Standard;

Reasonable steps to be taken by manufacturers to establish the origin of food ingredients, particularly where a claim of "may contain" is made;

Incorporate the use of sunset or review provisions to ensure the policy is updated given rapid advances in the technology and changes to consumer information needs;

These measures to apply initially to package foods, fresh and other whole foods to be dealt with subsequently;

Timing of Implementation.

Health Ministers will oversight the preparation of the Standard as a matter of urgency and report to the next ANZFSC meeting in October.

The Ministers also considered the following issues:

Strict controls on Food Irradiation;

Food Safety Standards (Australia only); and

Cadmium in peanuts.

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