Food regulation

Food regulation that puts consumers first.
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  • Updated:12 Sep 2008

01 .Food regulation

Child on a shopping trolley

Latest news

CHOICE recently made a submission to the Productivity Commission Draft Research Report on The Annual Review of Regulatory Burdens on Business. Our submission discusses the role of food regulation in protecting public health and the need for better enforcement of health claims.

Read our submission here.

The issue

Food regulation has three objectives.

  • The protection of public health and safety.
  • the provision of adequate information relating to food to enable consumers to make informed choices.
  • The prevention of misleading and deceptive conduct.

Read more about the current food regulation system.

Since 2005 there have been a number of government reviews of food regulation and the way it is developed. In 2005, the Food Regulation Ministerial Council commissioned a review of the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) assessment and approval processes.

The 2005 Commonwealth Government report Rethinking Regulation made a number of recommendations about food regulation. In September 2006, the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission (VCEC) commenced a review of food regulation and in January 2007 the Commonwealth Government announced a review of food regulation.

What we want

CHOICE wants to ensure that consumers continue to have a voice in food regulation and policy development and that decision makers prioritise consumer interests and public health over the interests of the food industry. By better engaging consumers during the development of food regulation, regulators will be better able to meet the three objectives of food regulation.

In most cases, individual consumers can only have input by making a written submission during formal public consultation, yet very few consumers have the capacity to do this. Regulators must engage consumers in other ways, for example through consumer research or consumer advisory panels, in order for consumers to have meaningful input. In 2006, FSANZ established a Consumer Liaison Committee in an effort to increase consumer input into its decision making processes and has devoted more resources to consumer research.

CHOICE wants open and transparent processes for developing food policy and standards to ensure that stakeholders, including consumer and public health groups, can have input into decision-making and assess the evidence and basis for decisions. This will enhance consumer confidence in food regulation and the ability of regulation to protect public health and provide consumer information. CHOICE also wants a greater commitment to consumer engagement in food standard and policy development.

What we’ve done

CHOICE participates in consultation activities on the review of the FSANZ assessment and approval processes. Read our submissions and letters to the Ministerial Council members about the proposed changes.

In December 2006, CHOICE provided a submission to the Victorian Competition and Efficiency Commission review of food regulation and intends to provide further comments during the second phase of public consultation on this review.

In 2007, CHOICE has:

  • made a submission to the Bethwaite Review – the Commonwealth review of food regulation - and met with Mr Mark Bethwaite to discuss our views on food regulation in Australia;
  • presented to the Senate Community Affairs Committee on the Food Standards Australian New Zealand Amendment Bill 2007 and provided two submissions on the Bill; and
  • made a submission to the VCEC on the Simplifying the Menu: Food Regulation in Victoria, the draft report in its inquiry.

What we’re doing

CHOICE is currently the only consumer organisation in Australia that represents the interests of consumers across a broad range of food policy and regulatory matters. We recognise the importance of ensuring that government processes protect the interests of consumers and will work to achieve a food regulatory system that places public health and consumer interests first.

CHOICE will continue to participate in reviews of food policy and regulation in order to ensure that consumer interests are given appropriate consideration. CHOICE also works with other public health groups such as the Public Health Association of Australia and the Cancer Council Australia, to ensure that the public health consequences are considered in the development of food policy and regulation processes.

CHOICE currently sits on a number of committees including the FSANZ Standard Development Advisory Committee on Nutrition Health and Related Claims and the FSANZ Consumer Liaison Committee.

What you can do

Keep up to date with our work on this issue — subscribe to CHOICE Campaigns Update (eNews)

More information

Submission: Additional comments on the FSANZ Amendment Bill 2007 (April 2007) 
Submission: Food Standards Australia New Zealand Amendment Bill 2007 (March 2007) 
Submission: Bethwaite Review of Food Regulation in Australia (March 2007) 
Submission: VCEC Inquiry into food regulation in Victoria (December 2006) 
Submission: Amendments to the FSANZ Act (April 2006) 
Letter: Amendments to the FSANZ Act (April 2006) 
Submission: Review of FSANZ assessment and approval processes (July 2005) 
Submission: Review of stakeholder consultation on food policy (October 2004)


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02.Our food regulation system

The main bodies responsible for establishing food policy and regulation in Australia are Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), the Food Regulation Secretariat and the Australian New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council (Ministerial Council). It is the responsibility of the State and Territory authorities to enforce food regulation.

FSANZ administers the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, developing and amending the standards that govern how food is produced, manufactured and labelled. The Food Regulation Secretariat develops food policy that guides FSANZ in the development or amendment of food standards. The Ministerial Council is made up of health ministers and primary industry or agriculture ministers from the Commonwealth government, New Zealand government and all State and Territory governments. It gives final approval to new and amended food standards and policies.

FSANZ must also have regard to issues affecting the food industry such as fair-trading, consistent regulation and international competition. Unfortunately, CHOICE believes that some developments in food regulation place the interests of the food industry above the interests of consumers.