Venkat Raman –
Restaurants, Takeaway businesses and those involved in selling food items either in their own premises or at outdoor locations would be obliged to follow the tenets of a new law that came into force on March 1, 2016.
‘The Food Act 2014’ provides for flexibility but empowers enforcing authorities to take immediate steps to discipline erring businesses in a bid to improve food safety which has been a cause for concern in recent years in eating places, especially those of Indian and Sub-Continent origin.
As is the case with all laws and statutes, those observing them with own systems and controls have nothing to worry about; the new law targets those who openly flout safety standards and acceptable norms of public hygiene.
According to Scott Gallacher, Deputy Director-General Regulation and Assurance at the Primary Industries Ministry said that the new law also covered corner diaries, market stalls and internet cake sellers.
He said that existing businesses should also comply with the new measures, although they may be given more time to adopt.
“Although the new law started on March 1, 2016, existing food businesses do not have to make changes straight away. They will move over to the new Act at different times over a three-year transition period,” he said.
The new law applies to a wide range of businesses, and includes any which make, sell, grow or transport food commercially. This includes those who serve food as part of their business, like education providers or care homes, Mr Gallacher said.
Claiming that the new law makes it easy for businesses to understand and follow its provisions, he said that the Ministry website (www.mpi.govt.nz) provided simple and easy-to-understand online tool for compliance.
“The new law has been designed to help businesses and consumers. It moves from a one-size-fits-all approach, to one that regulates businesses according to risk. This will help keep regulation and costs down for many businesses, especially lower risk businesses, like those who grow fruit and vegetables or sell only pre-packed food,” Mr Gallacher said.
“It also offers businesses greater flexibility. People can sell food they have made at home, for example, but must meet the same food safety standards as other businesses. By focusing on what is most important to food safety, the law will help ensure safer food for consumers. At the same time, keeping costs down for businesses will also keep costs down for consumers,” he added.
‘The Food Act 2014’ is stated to incorporate a number of other measures to help businesses to become more time and cost-effective. Those who manage food safety standards would be obliged to less frequent inspections.
By making food safety requirements more efficient for businesses, the Act fits with wider government efforts to deliver better public services.
Mr Gallacher said that the new law recognises that businesses are different. It gives businesses greater flexibility to manage risks in a way that suits what they do, and enables them to focus on what’s most important to achieve food safety in their business.
“The move to a risk based approach will help reduce costs for many businesses. Those who are lower risk will have to meet less strict rules and get checked less often, reducing time and costs associated with food safety regulation,” he said.
According to him, higher risk businesses such as those manufacturing ready-to-eat meals and those running restaurants should have in place a written plan for food safety.
“This is called a food control plan. It helps businesses identify and manage risks to food safety, making it easy to show their food is safe. Primary Industries Ministry has created templates to help some businesses create their plan and this includes food service businesses like restaurants and cafes, as well as retailers like bakeries, butchers, fishmongers and delicatessens. Schools, hospitals and rest homes that make food can also use these templates,” Mr Gallacher said.