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Food Ministers Protect Public Health


Food Ministers Protect Public Health, Support Industry Innovation

Melbourne, May 28

Joint Communique

The Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council met in Melbourne today. The Ministerial Council, made up of Ministers from the Australian and New Zealand, State and Territory Governments is the body responsible for developing food policy for Australia and New Zealand.

The Ministerial Council discussed progress on a number of policy issues and projects related to food. These policies will have significant benefits for both consumers and the food industry.

Fortification of Food with Vitamin and Minerals

The Ministerial Council agreed to a Policy Guideline for the Fortification of Foods with vitamins and minerals. The policy covers both mandatory and voluntary fortification of food.

Ministers agreed that vitamins and minerals may be added to food where there is, for example, demonstrated evidence of a potential health benefit and it is clear that the fortification of a food will not result in harm.

Ministers also agreed with FSANZ that mandatory fortification of food with iodine and folate, should be considered as a priority. Work on drawing up a standard will commence in the next two months.

Nutrition, Health and Related Claims

The Ministerial Council had further discussions on the appropriate approach to regulating the use of biomarker maintenance claims on foods (for example ‘maintains healthy cholesterol’). Ministers thought it important to make a decision on this issue, at the meeting.

Ministers recognised that foods can have a positive impact on the public's health and industry innovation in this area should be encouraged. The policy guideline of nutrition, health and related claims endorsed at the December 2003 meeting of the Ministerial Council will provide significant benefits to industry, in promoting healthy food choices to consumers.

Ministers also emphasised that the protection of public health and safety is a critical issue and consumers must be protected from false and misleading claims, or claims that have the potential to distort diets.

The Ministerial Council determined that claims regarding the maintenance of a biomarker would be permitted on foods. They will be treated in the same way as enhancement claims. That is, manufacturers will be required to apply to FSANZ for approval of a biomarker maintenance claim, prior to releasing the product to market. This will ensure that claims are appropriately substantiated and subject to public consultation, prior to their use.

Review of the Labelling of Genetically Modified Food – Report

Australia and New Zealand were among the first counties in the world to introduce GM labelling. In August 2003, Ministers requested that FSANZ conduct a review to compare our GM labelling requirements with current international practice.

The report on this review was considered today. Ministers were very pleased to note that Australia and New Zealand’s requirements remain amongst the most comprehensive in the world and that industry compliance with labelling requirements has been very good.

Ministers requested that FSANZ continue to monitor international trends on GM labelling and report to Ministers on progress.

The final report of the Review of Labelling of Genetically Modified Food is now publicly available on the FSANZ website at www.foodstandards.gov.au .

Food Policy Stakeholder Consultation Forum

A Food Policy Stakeholder Consultation Forum was held in Canberra on 30 March 2004. The outcomes of the Forum were considered by Ministers and will be used to inform ongoing improvements to the food policy development process. Ministers were impressed with the high level of stakeholder attendance and participation in the Forum.

The Report of the Forum will be posted on the Food Regulation Secretariat website at www.foodsecretariat.gov.au .

ENDS

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