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Performance Benchmarking of Australian Business Regulation: Food Safety

Research report

This research report was released on 22 December 2009.

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  • Key points
  • Media release
  • Contents
  • 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.

Benchmarking Food Safety Regulation

A report released by the Productivity Commission has identified differences in burdens imposed on business by the food safety regulatory regimes at all levels of government in Australia and New Zealand.

The report - Performance Benchmarking of Australian and New Zealand Business Regulation: Food Safety - is part of a series requested by COAG, responding to the imperative of removing unnecessary compliance costs, achieving greater consistency and reducing regulatory duplication.

The report identified opportunities for all jurisdictions to improve food safety regulation and its enforcement in order to reduce burdens on business and costs to the community.

Associate Commissioner Paul Coghlan said: 'There are encouraging signs that regulatory agencies generally use a tailored and measured approach, assisting businesses to comply. Yet, unnecessary compliance burdens remain in a number of areas.'

Areas where significant regulatory burdens remain across jurisdictions include:

  • some regulatory requirements in excess of national standards
  • slow progress in developing national standards under the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code for primary production and processing
  • inconsistencies between jurisdictions on the assessment of risks of particular foods
  • for businesses operating in several locations, inconsistencies across Australian local councils and across New Zealand territorial authorities in the costs and intensity of regulation
  • higher costs and regulatory duplication for Australian food exporters compared to the regulation of New Zealand food exporters.

Background information

Leonora Nicol (Media, Publications and Web) 02 6240 3239 / 0417 665 443

  • Preliminaries
    • Cover, Copyright, Foreword, Terms of reference, Contents, and Abbreviations
  • Overview - including key points
  • Chapter 1 About the study
    • 1.1 Origins of this study
    • 1.2 Harmonisation of food regulation
    • 1.3 Purpose and scope of the study
    • 1.4 Conduct of the study
    • 1.5 Outline of the report
  • Chapter 2 The regulatory objectives and framework
    • 2.1 The broad regulatory and institutional framework
    • 2.2 The jurisdiction-based food regulatory system
    • 2.3 Other food safety regulation
  • Chapter 3 Food safety outcomes
    • 3.1 Intermediate indicators
    • 3.2 Food-borne illness
    • 3.3 Outcomes and regulation
  • Chapter 4 Approach to benchmarking food safety regulation
    • 4.1 Why benchmark business regulation?
    • 4.2 Insights from international benchmarking studies
    • 4.3 Challenges in benchmarking
    • 4.4 Process for selecting areas of food safety regulation to benchmark
    • 4.5 Regulatory concerns raised in submissions and during consultation
    • 4.6 Areas of food safety regulation selected for benchmarking
  • Chapter 5 Consumer food safety regulation
    • 5.1 Adoption of the Model Food Act in Australia
    • 5.2 Differences in Australian food laws, regulations and standards
    • 5.3 Comparisons with New Zealand food safety laws
  • Chapter 6 Influencing the culture of compliance
    • 6.1 Food safety supervisors
    • 6.2 Food safety programs
  • Chapter 7 Consumer food safety regulators
    • 7.1 Introduction
    • 7.2 Role of government in food safety regulation
    • 7.3 Methodology
    • 7.4 Resourcing of regulators
    • 7.5 Enforcement approaches
    • 7.6 Enforcement practices
    • 7.7 Transparency, accountability and coordination
  • Chapter 8 Regulators of primary production and processing: enforcement and accountability
    • 8.1 Institutional structure
    • 8.2 Methodology
    • 8.3 Resources of primary production and processing food safety regulators
    • 8.4 Enforcement approaches and practices
    • 8.5 Direct burdens on business
    • 8.6 Transparency, accountability and coordination
  • Chapter 9 Food safety in meat production and processing
    • 9.1 Scope of meat regulation
    • 9.2 Licensing, accreditation and registration of meat businesses
    • 9.3 Inspections, audits and compliance monitoring
  • Chapter 10 Food safety in egg production and processing
    • 10.1 Scope of regulation of eggs and egg product safety
    • 10.2 Comparison of regulatory requirements across jurisdictions
  • Chapter 11 Food safety in dairy production and processing
    • 11.1 Scope of dairy and dairy product safety regulation
    • 11.2 Comparison of regulation across jurisdictions
    • 11.3 Audits and compliance monitoring
  • Chapter 12 Food safety in seafood production and processing
    • 12.1 Scope of seafood regulation
    • 12.2 Licensing and accreditation
    • 12.3 Compliance monitoring
  • Chapter 13 Maximum residue limits
    • 13.1 Introduction
    • 13.2 Specifying and varying the MRLs in food regulation
    • 13.3 Business compliance with MRLs
  • Chapter 14 Compliance with food import and export regulations
    • 14.1 Introduction
    • 14.2 Issues with the administration of food import regulations
    • 14.3 Issues with the administration of food export regulation
    • 14.4 General organisational and procedural issues
  • Chapter 15 Comments from jurisdictions
  • Appendix A Conduct of the benchmarking study
  • Appendix B Approach to gathering information
  • Appendix C Regulation of food imports and exports
  • References