OVER the last couple of months there has been a flurry of concerns expressed about the Food Bill, which is currently before Parliament and awaiting its Second Reading.
Many of the more extreme views, which can best be described as conspiracy theories, have originated from a handfulof anonymous websites and social media pages. The
fact that the issue has gained traction is a reminder to all governments and decisionmakers that they ignore the social media at their peril.
“While the Food and Grocery Council did have some genuine concerns about the Food Bill and expressed those concerns in submissions during the extensive Select
Committee process, overall we are confident that the Bill is a much needed update to food legislation which has been largely unamended for many decades,” said FGC chief
executive Katherine Rich.
The Food Bill updates and modernises the Food Act 1981. The Bill imposes a primary duty on all persons who trade in food to ensure that the food is safe and suitable.
It introduces substantial reforms to the regulatory regime for the safety and suitability of food.
Once fully implemented, it will replace the Food Act 1981 and the Food Hygiene Regulations 1974. The Bill will also make consequential amendments to the Animal Products
Act 1999 and the Wine Act 2003 to improve the interface of regulatory processes across food sectors.
Much of the concern in opposition to the Bill has not come from the food industry itself but from those involved in offering prepared product direct to the consumer through charity
operations, and of course those in the restaurant and café arena where there have been ongoing real concerns from very poor operators. Even under the Bill, those excellent
operators in any area have little to fear and certainly won’t have to jump any additional regulatory hurdles.
“It goes without saying that the main purpose of having good food law in this country is to ensure that the food New Zealanders buy is safe toeat. “What we are all interested in
is having common sense workable law thatbalances this worthy objective with running an efficient and profitablebusiness,” said Katherine Rich.
The Food Bill has been a work in progress for nearly the last decade so both the food industry and the Government are keen to see the new law in place. The Bill has been
written to ensure that businesses are aware of their responsibilities while not (touch wood) introducing unnecessary regulation for the food industry which is currently such a
big contributor to the New Zealand economy.
Once passed this year there will be a transitional period prior to the new Act coming into force and during this time guidance and informational material will be developed and
made available so that people know what is expected of them and how they are affected. The Government intends to implement three different levels of regulation based
mainly on how risky the food is to consumers.
Changes to the Bill have shifted the focus onto national programmes – a broad based regulatory tool that is suited to medium to low risk businesses. Food control plans
continue to play a vital role for businesses dealing with higher or broader risks and businesses that are more complex. “Small businesses with very low risks and impact will
be given food handler guidance information and will not need to implement formally approved food control plans.
“FGC did have some concerns about the regulation of food solely produced for export markets that might have different food regulations to New Zealand, but we are working
with the Ministry of Agriculture on this issue and have been assured that it is not the Ministry’s intention to stymie important export markets,” said Katherine Rich.
The food industry in general through growers, processors and retailers are reasonably confident that allowances would be made in the Bill to stop significant duplication of
auditing and compliances already in place. The larger companies in the market have no real problem with the Bill –it is the very small food production businesses who have
only complied with local council regulations in the past that may have to face a significant impact.
Any reader with additional specific questions about the Food Bill and its impacts should contact the Food and Grocery Council for additional information.
Contact Katherine Rich, CEO of FGC at firstname.lastname@example.org.