Carol Barnao

Dairy & Plant Products group, MAF Food Assurance Authority PO Box 2526, Wellington, New Zealand

Consumer awareness about food safety has increased dramatically in the past twenty years with the emergence of issues like BSE and dioxin in the EU, E. coli outbreaks in various countries and the advent of Genetically Modified Foods (GMFs). Public concern exists both about the credibility of Government assurances and about the ability to make informed choices about the food they consume (issues such as nutritional content, additives, GMFs, environmental impacts and, potentially, animal welfare).

This increased awareness has translated itself into increased requirements by importing countries regulatory authorities, looking for official assurances by exporting regulatory bodies that the food produced is safe, truthfully labelled and fit for its intended purpose. Certification of food products is now required for many of the products traded on the international market.

In the past the system for confirming certification information has traditionally been through inspection of product as it is processed. This is especially true in the animal products area where meat is inspected and kept under veterinary inspection throughout the processing and transport system. Other industries like the dairy and plants industries have not had such an intensive scrutiny of the process for certification. Unlike the meat industry, certification is not mandatory. MAF is currently developing certification for organic products into the European Union and possibly other markets like Japan and Taiwan with a strong focus on plant products. An outline of the draft certification system is given in the presentation.

The introduction of the new Animal Products Act has recognised the role of official assurances to foreign governments attesting to the process or situation in New Zealand, the standards used in processing and if necessary that market requirements have been met. The development of Risk based Management Plans that identify and control, manage and eliminate or minimise hazards and other risk factors. Using Hazard Analysis Critical Control Plans the risk management plans provide the basis upon which official assurances can be made as to the safety, labelling and fitness for intended purpose. Another significant change is the move from Government inspectors to recognised agencies that verify that risks associated with individual processes are being managed appropriately.

This infrastructure is the basis upon which food safety certification is provided, with a positive verification system requiring those recognised agencies to provide assurances to MAF that food safety issues are being managed and that government attestations can be given with confidence.

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