Transition to new food regime under discussion
New Zealand is a step closer to the implementation of its new food regulatory environment with the release of a final New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) Domestic Food Review discussion paper on 'Transition Policy and Related Implementation'.
"With the NZFSA proposals approved by Government, work is underway to draft required changes to legislation," says Carole Inkster, NZFSA Director (Policy). "In parallel, NZFSA is continuing work on Food Control Plans (for food businesses) and Food Handler Guidance (for low risk activities like sausage sizzles and small bed and breakfasts).
"We have also released a key discussion document that outlines when different categories of businesses and activity will be transitioned from the current regime to the new. It's vital that people involved with food for sale have their say."
The paper describes how it is proposed to implement Food Control Plans and National Programmes, sets out whether food sellers are in the categories that will be required to have a Food Control Plan or Food Handler Guidance, or be subject to a National Programme. It also covers the general timing of implementation, by sector and year, over the proposed five year transition period.
"The sequence of categories of businesses proposed draws heavily on a risk-ranking and prioritisation model developed by NZFSA. The methodology for the model was published in March 2006 and draws on a vast range of foodborne illness and other available data. This was to ensure that the sequence had some logical and scientific basis to it and not just a random selection.
Carole Inkster says that, once implemented, New Zealand will have an enviable domestic food safety system. "What we are doing will give New Zealand a world-class system that also has the flexibility to adapt to new foods, styles of eating and food preparation and storage technologies. It will take five years because we realise that New Zealand – both local and national government and the food business sector – does not have the resources to do this in one hit. Our intention is to get this right, to make it workable and practical, and to minimise costs.
"It will also have a full range of sanctions (options range from prohibition notices to complete closure of a business or activity) to deal appropriately with any type or level of non-compliance. In addition, we are working with local authorities, public health units and representative industry organisations to ensure that this system is practical, robust and cost effective."
"Our intention is to keep overall costs of food regulation as low as possible while achieving safe food for consumers. We also want to ensure that those doing a good job receive a positive incentive through lower compliance costs. A smooth and carefully planned transition is key to achieving these, and we want to hear views on the transition proposals in the discussion paper.
"We're particularly keen to hear suggestions that will help us ensure that the appropriate risk management tool is applied to each food operation; the sequence of the transition for food sectors is reasonable; there are sufficient skills available for the implementation; the new regulatory regime provides a level playing field for industry and is as cost-effective as possible while improving efficiency and effectiveness; and the outcomes for safety and suitability across New Zealand are facilitated in a timely manner."
The 'Transition Policy and Related Implementation' discussion document is available from www.nzfsa.govt.nz or in hard copy by calling 0800 693 721. The closing date for submissions is 9 February 2007.
Information on the Domestic Food Review is at: http://www.nzfsa.govt.nz/policy-law/projects/domestic-food-review/index.htm
The discussion document can be downloaded from: http://www.nzfsa.govt.nz/policy-law/consultation/dfr-transition/index.htm