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Plan to roll out proposed domestic food regime

NZFSA releases plan to roll out proposed domestic food regime

24 October 2007

A paper describing the way the proposed Food Act will be rolled out was released today by the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA).

The paper, (Domestic Food Review – Policy and Related Implementation Position Paper) is the tenth in a series of policy papers in NZFSA's major review of the domestic food regime. It describes how the introduction of the new Food Act will be staged over a five year transition period.

The new Act is being introduced to ensure consumers are protected and New Zealand's vital food industry positioned for the extensive growth and changes anticipated for the future. The food sector currently has an estimated turnover of $12 billion, employs more than 25% of working New Zealanders and provides more than 50% of New Zealand's export revenue. This is expected to continue to grow in the next twenty years and the new Act will provide a sound regulatory basis for this growth.

"The staged roll-out is vital to ensure we don't overwhelm business operators and regulators (NZFSA, Territorial Authorities and Public Health Units) with change – it will provide the time to develop the skills and resources to underpin the new regulatory system," says Carole Inkster, NZFSA's Director of Policy. "It also means that lessons learned early in the transition can be built in as the roll-out progresses."

The paper sets out the general sequence in which each food sector will be brought into the new system, which risk management tool will be applied to each sector and the roles and responsibilities of the various groups of people involved in the food industry.

The three types of risk management tool that will be used are described in the paper, namely: 1. Food Control Plans – either off–the–peg or custom–made 2. National Programmes – a set of requirements placed across all or part of a particular sector 3. Food Handler Guidance – educational information which will be used to provide guidance for people in operations which provide a low risk, and scope (eg, fundraisers)

The paper explains that NZFSA plans to use the first six months after the new Food Act is in place to finalise the off–the–peg Food Control Plans for businesses in the first year of the transition sequence, the Food Control Plan manual (guidance information to help people develop their custom–made Food Control Plans), and other information material for Territorial Authorities and verifiers. Then the five–year transition period begins first with a six–month period during which NZFSA will notify affected sectors of firm dates for registration and hold training workshops for them. Six months into the transition period, the first group of businesses will be able to register their Food Control Plans and they will have yet another six month period to do so.

"The important feature is that there are chunks of time in the transition plan to ensure everyone can move at a comfortable pace to the new system," said Carole.

Under the proposed system, Territorial Authorities will provide the 'shop–front' functions for most food businesses. This will include providing a first point of first contact for food business operators where they will be able to advise on which tool would best suit their business, as well as receiving complaints about food premises or products. Territorial Authorities deal with much of this at the moment but in the future they will be supported by NZFSA with materials, training and specialist experts.


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