Performance Benchmarking of Australian and New Zealand Business Regulation: Food Safety

Key points

These key points were released with the Performance Benchmarking of Australian and New Zealand Business Regulation: Food Safety research report on 22 December 2009.

See also: Media release

  • Australian and New Zealand regulators generally use a cooperative, graduated approach to achieve compliance. They apply risk management and try to minimise adverse side effects on business.
  • Consistent with the Joint Food Standards Setting Treaty, New Zealand only adopts a minority of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards. New Zealand has separate food hygiene standards for consumer food safety which are much more prescriptive.
  • The Model Food Act and Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code in Australia help to achieve some level of harmonisation between states and territories in their consumer food safety requirements. The most significant difference occurs over requirements to employ a food safety supervisor and to prepare a food safety plan.
  • Local councils play a key role in the administration and enforcement of consumer food safety regulation, except in the Australian territories. There are significant differences in councils' fees and charges, inspection rates, enforcement practices and transparency of their activities, which can lead to unnecessary burdens on business. The NSW Food Authority has achieved greater coordination and clarity by establishing a memorandum of understanding with local councils.
  • There are significant differences among the core state/territory consumer food safety regulators in the level and nature of charges; taxpayer versus business funding; risk classifications; the rate and duration of audits/inspections; appeal mechanisms and transparency.
  • Across the Australian states and territories, there is far less harmonisation in regulation at the primary production and processing (PPP) end of the food chain:
    • there is no model food safety legislation covering PPP
    • progress in developing national PPP standards has been slow
    • significant differences in the interpretation and implementation of PPP standards persist in jurisdictions.
  • The processes for registering and specifying appropriate maximum residue limits of chemicals are more streamlined and timely in New Zealand than in Australia.
  • Comparing how Australia and New Zealand regulate internationally traded food:
    • Australia's charges are generally higher, its fee structure is more complex, and there is jurisdictional diversity and agency duplication
    • in both countries, red meat exporters incur greater costs and more regulatory intervention than other primary product exporters
    • some products are subject to the strictest export requirements irrespective of destination, extending to domestically sold products in New Zealand's case
  • Australia's regulatory system for exports relies less on electronic processing to reduce business compliance costs and is less able to embrace shifts toward outcome-based standards in the domestic food safety system.
Background information
Sue Holmes (Assistant Commissioner) 02 6240 3351