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Transitional Arrangement For GM Food Labelling

JOINT COMMUNIQUE

Food Standards Ministers Agree To Soy Sauce Safety, Transitional Arrangement For GM Food Labelling And Minor Change To Food Nutrition Labelling

CANBERRA, Australia, Oct. 24th/MediaNet International-AsiaNet/ -- Australian and New Zealand Food Standards Ministers, meeting by teleconference, today approved a new food standard setting safe levels of chloropropanols in soy and oyster sauces, established a transitional arrangement for labelling genetically modified foods and agreed to a new carbohydrate definition which would permit a nutrition panel calculator for food businesses.

Chloropropanols in soy and oyster sauces

Ministers agreed to an amendment to the Food Standards Code to set a maximum level in soy and oyster sauces of 0.2 mg/kg for 3-MCPD and 0.005 mg/kg for 1,3-DCP.

This follows the recall of fourteen imported soy and oyster sauce products initiated by the Australia New Zealand Food Authority after tests showed that they contained unsafe levels of the chloropropanol 3-MCPD, a chemical contaminant known to cause kidney damage. 3-MCPD and the related chloropropanol 1,3-DCP (a potent carcinogen) may be formed during a manufacturing procedure known as acid hydrolysis. Chloropropanols are not an issue for soy and oyster sauces made by natural fermentation.

Stock-in-trade provisions for the labelling of GM food

From 7 December 2001, all food containing novel genetic material or protein in the final product must have its GM status identified on the package or, in the case of unpackaged foods, near the food.

Ministers discussed, and agreed to, a transitional arrangement for those genetically modified foods which may be on the shelf prior to 7 December 2001 when the new labelling requirement comes into effect. Rather than removing existing products from the shelf, Ministers recognised that there is a very rapid turnover in most foods on supermarket shelves and other food outlets and the majority would be sold and consumed within one or two months. The remaining small minority of foods, which have both low rates of turnover and long `use by' or `best before' periods, would be allowed to remain on the shelves until used up, but would not be permitted to remain for more than 12 months.

All products manufactured on or after 7 December must be labelled.

Nutrition panel calculator for food businesses

Ministers also made a minor change to how the carbohydrate values of food could be calculated by manufacturers for inclusion in Nutrition Information Panels on food labels. The amendment to the Food Standards Code will allow for the carbohydrate content of food to be calculated by either the current method 'by difference'or by analysis. This will allow manufacturers to use a definition of carbohydrate that will give accurate information to consumers about the carbohydrate content of their food, while retaining flexibility to select the method of calculating carbohydrate best suited to their food product. Packaged foods must have a nutrition panel on the label by December 2002 listing energy (kilojoules), protein, total fat, saturated fat, carbohydrate, sugars and sodium (salt).

This change will allow the Australia New Zealand Food Authority to release its new web-based Nutrition Panel Calculator which will automatically calculate nutrition information panels for food businesses once they have entered their recipe.

SOURCE: AUSTRALIAN & NEW ZEALAND FOOD STANDARDS COUNCIL.

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