According to an annual report, in Fiscal Year 2021–2022, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) progressed and completed work on a range of significant food safety proposals, such as requirements for food safety management, reviews of commodity-specific regulations, maximum residue limits (MRLs), and other topics. The annual report also outlined FSANZ’s performance in various activities, including, but not limited to, coordinating food recalls and conducting monitoring and surveillance of the food supply and associated hazards.
Standards Proposals and Amendments to Food Standards Code
The report covers Australia and New Zealand’s Fiscal Year 2021–2022, which ended on June 30, 2022. During that time, FSANZ advanced work on a number of major proposals, including two that were progressed under a broader effort in support of Australia’s Foodborne Illness Reduction Strategy 2018–2021+, to review standards within the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. Notably, in support of the Strategy, FSANZ initiated proposals to strengthen food safety management requirements for the primary production and processing for berries, leafy vegetables, and melons; the new requirements were approved by the FSANZ Board in June 2022, and producers are subject to a 30-month implementation period after amendments are made to the Code. Also in support of the Strategy, FSNAZ proposed an updated standard regarding food safety management tools for the foodservice sector, a final version of which is under consideration by the Board.
FSANZ also made amendments to its kava standard to more explicitly limit the preparation of kava beverages to historically safe, traditional use. An assessment to review the proposal will continue into 2022–2023. Assessments on regulations for infant formula, supplementary sports foods, and caffeine were also conducted during 2021–2022, and a proposal regarding primary production and processing requirements for eggs to improve Salmonella controls was initiated. Additionally, FSANZ continued work on setting definitions for gene technology and breeding techniques for genetically modified foods, which will continue into 2022–2023, and approved genetically modified wheat as a food.
In collaboration with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority and the Australian Department of Agriculture, Water, and Environment (DAWE), FSANZ took actions to ensure that agricultural and veterinary (agvet) chemical residues in the Australian food supply do not pose health and safety concerns to consumers. Specifically, FSANZ conducted 188 dietary exposure assessments (DEAs) related to MRLs for agvet chemicals. A proposal progressed MRL changes for 146 agvet chemicals, incorporating 131 DEAs and 646 combinations of chemicals and foods. Work included harmonization, deletion, or reduction in MRLs requested by domestic and overseas stakeholders. FSANZ also considered all new MRLs from the 2021 Codex Alimentarius Commission. Amendments to the Code will be made in 2022–2023.
Food Recall and Incident Response
In 2021–2022, FSANZ coordinated 19 recalls, the majority of which were due to undeclared allergens and microbial contamination.
FSANZ coordinates food recalls with relevant local food regulatory agencies and food businesses; when a national food safety incident occurs, FSANZ coordinates the response through the Bi-National Food Safety Network (BFSN). The network enables national coordination, communication, and information-sharing between government agencies, including all Australian state and territory food regulatory agencies, the Australian Department of Health, DAWE, and the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries. Following recalls and incidents, FSANZ collects satisfaction ratings from recall sponsors and state or territory food regulatory agencies.
Of the 79 recalls that occurred in 2021–2022, FSANZ received 72 post-recall reports. The rate of recall sponsors who reported being “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with FSANZ information and assistance was 97 percent. Additionally, 100 percent of BFSN agencies reported being “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with FSANZ’s role in incident response.
Furthermore, In June 2022, FSANZ staff participated in a training exercise to test the effectiveness of the revised protocol for responding to an intentional tampering incident. The exercise was conducted in response to a recommendation from a report on a 2018 incident involving needles in strawberries. Participants included representatives from FSANZ, Australian food regulatory agencies, state police, and the food industry. The event enabled information exchange and improved understanding of processes between key stakeholders and incident responders. The relevant protocol will be updated based on lessons learned and feedback from the event.
FSANZ also reported on its participation in the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN), a global network of food safety authorities under the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). In 2021–22, FSANZ attended one INFOSAN regional meeting and reported 18 food safety events to INFOSAN, including recalls of food products imported into Australia and exported to other countries. Recalls reported to INFOSAN included chocolate, infant formula, and dates due to microbial contamination; prawn crackers and plant-based dips due to undeclared allergens; and alcoholic beverages due to non-compliant labeling.
FSANZ is also a contact point for the European Commission’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF), which is a tool to exchange information between EU Member States on serious risks associated with food or feed imported into or exported from Australia. In 2021–22, FSANZ reported 33 food safety events to states and territories following RASFF notifications, including border rejections, unauthorized substances, and chemical and microbial contaminations.
Monitoring and Surveillance
In 2021, FSANZ conducted two Australian Total Diet Studies (TDS) to survey dioxins and per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the national food supply. Neither study revealed significant food safety concerns for the general Australian population.
Additionally, ongoing reviews of titanium dioxide in food were initiated in response to the release of an updated safety assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in May 2021. FSANZ is considering submitted scientific data and available literature on titanium dioxide, and expects to publish its review in 2022–2023.
FSANZ also commenced a project on surveillance of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in retail food. FSANZ is engaging with government bodies and stakeholders in the beef, pork, and chicken sectors to communicate the aims of the surveillance project. The AMR stakeholder engagement strategy will ensure that outcomes are effectively communicated and delivered in collaboration with the food sector.
FSANZ highlighted its ongoing review of the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991. Part of a broader system modernization and reform agenda, the review will examine Australia’s role in the bi-national food regulation system and identify areas for improvement. The review may support government responses to emerging threats to food safety, efforts to strengthen stakeholder engagement and collaboration, and the development of risk-proportionate standards and regulation.