The New Zealand Parliament passed the Food Safety Law Reform Bill.
The new law addresses the recommendations from the Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) Contamination Inquiry.
Food Safety Minister Damien O’Connor said that New Zealand has made substantial progress in implementing WPC Inquiry recommendations, some of which entailed legislative change.
The Bill amends the Animal Products Act 1999, Food Act 2014, and Wine Act 2003.
Processes better aligned
Many modern businesses work under more than one food safety Act.
The new law includes a range of changes to strengthen the government’s responses to food safety incidents, create a more consistent and fair approach to enforcement for non-compliance, and improve the Government’s accessibility to information from third-parties. It also allows us to create regulations where food and medicines converge.
“The law supports other steps the Government is taking to ensure the New Zealand food safety system is strengthened and continues to remain fit for purpose,” Mr O’Connor said.
The WPC incident
The WPC contamination incident in 2013 originated from a suspected contamination of whey protein concentrate with ‘clostridium botulinum.’
After extensive tracking and a precautionary recall, authorities were able to establish that products were not contaminated.
The WPC Inquiry concluded that New Zealand’s food safety regulatory model is consistent with international principles and is among the best in the world.
However, the Inquiry recommended some changes which the government accepted.
As well as implementing the WPC Inquiry recommendations, the amendments provide further consistency and better align some of the processes and systems under all three Acts, such as the ability to use electronic systems and consistent enforcement tools.
The new Law enables regulations to set the content and format of the parts of custom risk management programmes and plans that must be provided to the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) for registration, and (a) allows the Director-General to require amendments to programmes and plans if they are not able to be easily understood (b) enables regulations to provide more-detailed traceability obligations and provide the ability for the Government to set recall requirements as needed, given the importance of traceability to New Zealand’s food safety and reputation and (c) allows New Zealand to create regulations where food and medicines converge.
To some degree, any food business regulated under the Animal Products Act, Food Act, or Wine Act may potentially be affected. In addition, agencies or people providing services to businesses in the food sector (such as research and diagnostic laboratories) may be affected if a serious food incident occurs.