Proposals for regulations under the Food Act 2014 are open for consultation.
The proposed regulations ensure our food is safe and suitable, and will apply to around 85,000 food premises, growers and food importers when the Act comes fully into force by 1 March 2016.
“We want the regulations to be practical and appropriate for the wide range of businesses operating in New Zealand’s food industry, from coffee carts and catering companies to restaurants and large industrial food manufacturers,” Mrs Goodhew says.
“The best way to ensure the regulations are suitable is for those people within the food industry to get involved in the consultation process.”
Proposals cover matters such as hygiene practices, production, processing, handling of food, and how businesses are checked to ensure they are meeting these food safety requirements.
Under the new Act, food businesses will have increased responsibility for managing their food safety risks, with good performance leading to fewer checks and therefore lower compliance costs.
“Food businesses will be regulated at different levels depending on their food safety risk. High risk businesses will need a food control plan, while low to medium risk businesses will use a national programme,” Mrs Goodhew says.
“These changes bring the Food Act into line with other food safety laws in New Zealand.”
The central feature of the new Act is a sliding scale where businesses that are higher risk from a food safety point of view will operate under more stringent food safety requirements and checks than lower risk food businesses.
The new law recognises that each business is different and is a positive step forward from the old Act and its one-size-fits-all approach to food safety.
Higher-risk food businesses – that prepare and sell meals or sell raw meat or seafood, for example – will operate under a written Food Control Plan (FCP) where businesses identify food safety risks and steps they need to take to manage these risks. The FCP can be based on a template or businesses can develop their own plan to suit their individual business.
Businesses that produce or sell medium risk foods – like non-alcoholic beverages, for example – will come under National Programmes. There are three levels of National Programmes, which are based on the level of food safety risk. They won’t have to register a written plan, but will have to make sure they are following the requirements for producing safe food that will be set out in regulations. This includes having to register their business details, keep minimal records and have periodic checks.
Unlike the old Act, the new Act provides a clear exemption to allow Kiwi traditions like fundraising sausage sizzles or home baking at school fairs to take place. The only rule will be that food that is sold must be safe.
Growing food for personal use and sharing it with others, including ‘Bring a plate’ to a club committee meeting or a lunch for a visiting sports team or social group, is outside the scope of the Food Act. The Act only covers food that is sold or traded. . .
Having higher standards for higher risk businesses and less stringent requirements for lower risks ones makes sense.
Clearly exempting traditional fundraisers like sausage sizzles and fairs is a welcome common sense approach.
There must be a certain level of buyer beware and if you buy something at a sausage sizzle or fair you know the same standards of hygiene as commercial producers won’t apply.
Consultation is open until March 31. There’s more information on the Act here.