Food Bill Almost over the line

By Ann Thompson

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The new Food Bill has taken about 10 years to come to fruition, but food safety is hugely important to New Zealanders and our markets.
The new Food Bill has taken about 10 years to come to fruition, but food safety is hugely important to New Zealanders and our markets.

Food safety is incredibly important to New Zealanders and to our markets.

It is complicated, with large commercial enterprises and the small honey-seller needing to be accommodated within the same legislation.

As I write, the Food Bill is finally progressing through to the finish line, having had its second reading in Parliament.

Like many others, I am hoping that when you read this, the Bill will have finally (like the snail that it has been) got across the line and become law. It's only taken about 10 years all up!

The new Act replaces the Food Act 1981, and over time also replaces the Food Hygiene Regulations 1974 and the Food (Safety) Regulations 2002.

It also makes consequential amendments to the Animal Products Act 1999 and the Wine Act 2003. However, because many regulations are yet to be developed, parts of the new Act will not come into force until early 2016, which gives food businesses time to adjust to the future.

Federated Farmers' main concern is to make sure that those farmers who feed their staff during shearing and calving and who sell non-high-risk produce at the farm gate, or at stalls in farmers' markets, are not caught up in unnecessary red tape.

From what we've seen, Federated Farmers is confident such farmers will be free to carry on provided they are aware of the risks that providing food for others on a small scale carries, and keep high standards in food hygiene -- as they would use if they were feeding their own family.

Many dairy farmers who sell raw drinking milk (and those who buy it) will be wondering if this means certainty for them. While I can't give them that certainty, I can say that the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is working on it and for the moment there are no changes -- five litres of raw milk can still be sold and bought at the farm gate.

The long lead-in period for the new Act allows enough time for the review of raw milk sales to be concluded and any new rules put into place. It is likely there will need to be standards issued under both the Animal Products Act and new Food Act.

While Federated Farmers could complain about the length of time all this has taken, food safety is incredibly important to New Zealanders and to our markets.

It is complicated, with large commercial enterprises and the small honey-seller needing to be accommodated within the same legislation. Thankfully all in Parliament agreed that what has finally hit the books is as good as we can get.

MPI will be consulting on any regulations proposed and the Federation will be checking to make sure farmers are not caught up with the devil in the detail.

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