Bi-national Food Agency Wants Comment on Proposed Changes to Regulations

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) today published details of changes that it is considering to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code –regulations that govern the composition, labelling and safe handling of food.

Among the proposed changes are regulations dealing with nutrition, health and related claims, the labelling of ice cream products, two new genetically modified corn varieties, use of an intense sweetener in food, and a national safety standard for poultry meat.

Once changes have been made to food standards in the Code, food businesses must comply immediately with the new regulations, unless a phase-in period has been allowed.

Enforcement agencies in the States and Territories and the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) continually monitor the food supply to ensure compliance with the Code. They can take action in the courts if the regulations have been breached.

Imported foods must also comply with the provisions of the Code. In Australia, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) checks food at the border, while NZFSA carries out this task in New Zealand.

Nutrition, health and related claims
(Proposal P293 –Draft Assessment)

The Food Regulation Ministerial Council has asked FSANZ to develop a mandatory nutrition and health claims system for Australia and New Zealand. FSANZ is proposing a new standard for nutrition, health and related claims that will permit a wider range of health claims to be made than is currently allowed. At present, food manufacturers cannot make a claim on a food label linking a nutrient or substance in the food with a disease, with the exception of folate and neural tube defects in babies. We invite comment from individuals and organisations on a draft food standard that sets the conditions under which nutrition and health claims can be made.

Lipase from Penicillium roquefortii as a processing aid
(Application A519 –Draft Assessment)

Biocatalysts Ltd has applied for approval to use an enzyme from a new microbial fungal source as a processing aid. The applicant claims that the enzyme, lipase, triacylglycerol, obtained from Penicillium roquefortii, produces blue-cheese odours during the production of certain types of cheeses and cheese-flavoured products. We do not believe this processing aid raises any public health and safety concerns and that use of the enzyme is technologically justified. We intend to recommend approval and invite public comment.

Phospholipase A1 as a processing aid
(Application A561 –Draft Assessment)

Novozymes A/S want the Code amended to allow the use of a new enzyme, phospholipase A1, as a processing aid. The enzyme, obtained by recombinant DNA techniques, would be used in the manufacture of cheese to improve process efficiencies and cheese yields. Our pre-market assessment has raised no safety concerns and has confirmed that use of the enzyme is technologically justified. We invite interested parties to study the assessment report.

Tara gum as a food additive
(Application A546 –Draft Assessment)

Unipektin AG (Switzerland) has requested a change to the Code to allow the use of tara gum as a new food additive, to act as a thickener and stabiliser for a wide variety of foods. Food additives must undergo a pre-market assessment by FSANZ before they can be approved. After examining chemical, biochemical and toxicological information and the intended level of use in a range of food products, we have concluded that tara gum does not pose a public health or safety risk. We are therefore recommending its approval. Comment is invited.

Maximum residue limits
(Application A568 –Draft Assessment) –Australia only

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority has applied to FSANZ seeking to amend maximum residue limits (MRLs) for a number of chemicals in the Code. FSANZ has reviewed the estimated dietary exposure assessments for these applications. These assessments indicate that the residues associated with the proposed MRLs do not represent an unacceptable risk to public health and safety.

Steviol glycosides as intense sweeteners
(Application A540 –Initial Assessment)

The Plant Sciences Group of Central Queensland University and Australian Stevia Mills Pty Ltd are seeking approval for the use of steviol glycosides as an intense sweetener for a wide variety of foods. Steviol glycosides, extracted from the herb Stevia rebaundiana,are 250-300 times sweeter than sucrose. Food additives must undergo a pre-market assessment before approval is granted. At this stage, we would like comments on the technological justification, safety, costs and benefits of approving this intense sweetener.

Submissions: FSANZ welcomes public comment from industry, public health professionals, government agencies and consumers. Details of all the assessments above can be found on

Submissions close on 1 February 2006, except for P293, which closes on 22 February 2006.

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