FSANZ seeks Public Comment on Proposed Changes to the Food Code

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) today released details of changes being considered to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Codeand invited individuals and organisations with an interest in food standards to comment on the proposals.

The changes include the fortification of cereal-based beverages with selected vitamins and minerals, two new GM foods, the addition of phytosterols to fruit juices and fruit drinks, and an examination of benzoate and sulphite additives in food.

FSANZ is an independent government agency that sets food standards for Australia and New Zealand.

Industry can apply to FSANZ to vary food standards in the Code at any time. FSANZ’s responsibility is to ensure that changes are only approved if there are no concerns for public health and safety and that adequate and accurate information is provided to consumers.

The standard-setting process usually involves two rounds of public consultation. Information on how to make a submission can be found on the FSANZ website at www.foodstandards.gov.au.

Phytosterols in fruit juice and fruit juice drinks (Application A560 –Initial Assessment)

Coca-Cola South Pacific Pty Ltd has applied for permission to use phytosterols derived from vegetable oils as novel food ingredients in fruit juice and fruit drinks containing a minimum 20% fruit juice. The products are intended for consumers over the age of 40 with concerns about their blood cholesterol levels. Phytosterols are already allowed in table spreads and margarines and their use in low-fat milk, yoghurt and breakfast cereals is under consideration. Novel food ingredients such as phytosterols must undergo a safety assessment by FSANZ before they can be sold. FSANZ is seeking community comment at this early stage on a range of issues associated with the use of phytosterols in fruit juice and fruit juice drinks.

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

Novozymes A/S has asked FSANZ to amend the Food Standards Code to approve the use of a new enzyme –phospholipase A1 –as a processing aid. Its purpose would be to improve process efficiencies and yields in cheese manufacture. The new enzyme is produced using recombinant DNA techniques. The related enzyme, phospholipase A2, has already been approved for use as a processing aid. We welcome comment on this application.

Food derived from insect-protected corn (Application 564 –Initial Assessment)

Syngenta Seeds Pty Ltd is seeking approval for food derived from corn line MIR604, which has been genetically modified to be resistant to three species of corn rootworm. If approved, food from this corn line will be able to enter Australia and New Zealand as imported products. The application is for use of MIR604 corn as a food only. At present, GM corn cannot be grown commercially in either country. If FSANZ accepts this application, it will undertake a safety assessment of the new GM corn to ensure that it is as safe for consumers as its non-GM counterpart.

Benzoate and sulphite permissions in food (Proposal P298 –Initial Assessment)

FSANZ is reviewing the use of sulphites and benzoates as chemical preservatives in food. The review has been initiated because the 21stAustralian Total Diet Study found high consumption levels by some age groups in the population, including young children. Although these high levels are unacceptable, they do not represent a risk to the health of these individuals. We intend to work with food manufacturers to establish the best way, if necessary, to reduce dietary exposure to sulphites and benzoates. We are seeking input to the review from concerned individuals, consumers, public health professionals and industry.

Fortification of cereal-based beverages (Application A500 –Draft Assessment)

So Natural Foods Australia has requested an amendment to the Food Standards Code to allow the addition of calcium to cereal-based beverages (eg rice and oat beverages). These beverages are generally consumed by individuals who are allergic/intolerant to dairy and/or soy products, or who choose not to consume dairy products. FSANZ has put forward three regulatory options for discussion, including its preferred option, which would permit the voluntary addition of selected vitamins and minerals to cereal-based beverages, with a requirement for specific advisory labelling. We welcome comment on this and the other strategies.

Food derived from glyphosate-tolerant cotton (Application 553 –Draft Assessment)

Monsanto Australia Limited has applied for approval for food derived from genetically modified cotton line MON 88913. The introduced genetic trait confers increased tolerance to glyphosate herbicide (Roundup Readyâ) during the reproductive phases of growth. All GM foods must undergo a pre-market safety assessment by FSANZ before they can be sold in Australia and New Zealand. FSANZ has concluded that there are no public health and safety issues associated with this GM cotton and is recommending approval for use, mainly as cottonseed oil.

Submissions: FSANZ welcomes public comment from industry, public health professionals, government agencies and consumers. Details of all the assessments above can be found on http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/mediareleasespublications/mediareleases/mediareleases2005/fsanzseekspubliccomm2967.cfm. Submissions close on 14 September 2005.

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