The Food Ministers' Meeting (the Food Ministers):
- develops policy guidelines that FSANZ has to have regard to when setting food standards
- promotes harmonised standards between Australia and New Zealand
- has general oversight of the implementation of standards
- promotes a consistent approach to compliance and enforcement by the jurisdictions.
Food Ministers membership is made up of lead ministers (usually health ministers) from Australian state and territory governments and the Australian and New Zealand governments. Other ministers from related portfolios may participate.
The Food Ministers is chaired by the Assistant Minister for Health.
The Food Ministers can ask FSANZ to review its decision to approve a standard or variation to a standard. Once FSANZ has notified the Food Ministers of an approval, the Food Ministers has 60 days to advise FSANZ whether it is required to review its decision based on one or more of the following grounds:
- it is not consistent with existing policy guidelines set by the Forum
- it is not consistent with the objectives of the legislation which establishes FSANZ
- it does not protect public health and safety
- it does not promote consistency between domestic and international food standards where these are at variance
- it does not provide adequate information to enable informed choice
- it is difficult to enforce and/or comply with in both practical or resource terms
- it places an unreasonable cost burden on industry or consumers.
The New Zealand Government is also able to request a review on the grounds that it:
- would be inappropriate for New Zealand on the grounds of exceptional health, safety, third country trade, environmental or cultural factors, as set out in Annex D of this Agreement; or
- is not consistent with the principles for the establishment of food standards set down in this Agreement, including consistency with both countries’ WTO obligations and consistency with the domestic laws and regulations of both countries.
If the Food Ministers does not request a review of FSANZ’s decision, FSANZ gazettes the standard and registers it as a legislative instrument. Gazetted standards or variations are adopted automatically, by reference and without amendment, into Australian state and territory food laws. In New Zealand, food standards are issued by the Minister for Food Safety under the New Zealand Food Act 1981.
If the Food Ministers requests a review, it has to tell FSANZ the reasons for its request and provide relevant information. It is up to FSANZ to determine how it will conduct the review, unless the Food Ministers has given specific directions. FSANZ must complete the review within three months of the request being made, or longer if the Food Ministers allows.
After the review, the FSANZ Board can re-affirm, amend or withdraw its approval.
If, after the review, FSANZ has not withdrawn its approval, the Food Ministers has 60 days to advise FSANZ:
- that it does not intend to amend or reject the standard; or
- to amend the standard; or
- that it is rejecting the standard providing its reasons in writing to FSANZ, in newspapers circulating in each state or territory and in New Zealand and on the internet.
Each of the ten jurisdictions has one vote, exercised by the lead Minister. Decisions by the Food Ministers are taken on a majority.
If the Food Ministers either amends or does not amend FSANZ’s decision, FSANZ then gazettes the standard and registers it as a legislative instrument.
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The Food Ministers' Meeting
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