New Food Act comes into force

Corporate Update

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On 1 March 2016, the Food Act 2014 (Act) came into force. This publication provides a brief overview of the overhauled laws with which all businesses that sell food must comply.

The Act applies immediately to any new business which sells food. Established businesses may transition to the Act at any time from 1 March. The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) will be focused on providing support and guidance to businesses as outlined in their Transition timetable. By 28 February 2019, all food businesses will be operating under the new Act. 

The Act is intended to modernise food safety in New Zealand, and make it easier for businesses to ensure their food is safe, by moving away from a one-size-fits-all approach to one that regulates businesses according to risk. Higher risk businesses, such as restaurants, will have greater safety responsibilities than lower risk businesses, such as convenience stores. 

Higher risk businesses, such as those preparing and selling meals or selling raw meat or seafood, will need to operate under a written, registered and regularly verified Food Control Plan (FCP). FCPs identify businesses' potential food safety risks and the steps that will be taken to mitigate and manage them. In drafting an FCP, businesses can either develop their own or use one of MPI's templates. FCPs are binding documents and care should be taken when drafting them to promote compliance. 

Businesses that produce or sell low to medium risk foods, such as bread only products, jams or confectionary, will need to comply with one of three national programmes. Businesses operating under a national programme will not need a written plan, but must comply with regulations and register their details. Storage and transport of food to be sold may fall under the scope of a national programme. 

Registration of an FCP or business under a national programme will continue to be managed by territorial authorities (or MPI in cases such as FCPs which apply to stores nation-wide). 

When the Act was initially announced, many felt that it would threaten classic Kiwi traditions. The new Act makes it very clear that activities like fundraising sausage sizzles or bake sales are exempt from the scope of the Act. The only rule that will apply is that food that is sold must be safe. 

Growing food for personal use, sharing it with neighbours, or preparing a meal for others, is also outside the scope of the Act. The Act only covers food that is sold or traded. 

Ultimately, compliance with the new Act should be front of mind for food businesses. Penalties for breaches range from small fines and suspensions to fines of $500,000 for companies and imprisonment of up to five years for individuals at the highest level of offending. 

The MPI website is full of useful resources, including transition timetables, business category calculators and summaries of how the national programmes and regulations will operate. 

If you have any questions, or require further information regarding any aspect of this publication, please contact us.