A PRIMARY production and processing standard for high-risk horticulture is in the wings with growers invited to comment on the idea.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has called for submissions to its proposal which is looking specifically at primary production and processing activities in three sectors:
- leafy vegetables
FSANZ chief executive officer, Mark Booth, said there were currently no consistent, national regulatory food safety requirements applied to these.
"The vast majority of horticultural produce in Australia is safe and healthy, however outbreaks linked to particular produce sectors continue to occur," Mr Booth said.
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"At the request of ministers responsible for food regulation, FSANZ is reassessing the need to amend the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code) to enact a primary production and processing standard to manage food safety for high-risk horticulture."
The call for submissions is the first of two public rounds of consultation.
This initial round is seeking information from stakeholders to help FSANZ better understand the high-risk sectors and whether a regulatory approach is required, including what that regulation might look like.
FSANZ will assess if sprouts and ready-to-eat minimally processed fruits and vegetables, which are currently covered by existing standards in the Code, need further consideration in future work on the review of Chapters three and four.
PMA Australia-New Zealand head of food safety, Deon Mahoney, said while food safety is important to growers and customers, the industry needs a workable regulation that is both effective and practical.
PMA A-NZ's preliminary view is that the status quo, which is based on non-regulatory measures, is inadequate to effectively manage the risk to public health and safety.
It also suggests the development of regulatory measures as the preferred approach.
"The form that regulatory measures would take is yet to be decided but may include a graduated risk-based approach, or amendments to definitions which would allow the application of existing requirements to previously excluded businesses," Mr Mahoney said.
"FSANZ's decision whether to prepare a regulatory measure and, if so, the form that that measure will take, will be informed by information received in response to their call for submissions, targeted consultation, and cost-benefit analysis.
"I strongly encourage you to review the material published by FSANZ, and to make submissions as you see fit."
FSANZ is establishing a Standard Development Advisory Group consisting of representatives from industry peak bodies and government regulators to assist with and advise on the current work.
The period for comment closes at 6pm (Canberra time) Wednesday, March 18.
- The proposal can be read here: foodstandards.gov.au/code/proposals/Documents/P1052-1CFS_FINAL.pdf
- To make a submission, visit: foodstandards.gov.au/code/changes/submission/Pages/default.aspx