NEW ZEALAND - The New Zealand government is set to introduce a series of new food safety and traceability measures into the dairy sector following the publication of a report by the Dairy Traceability Working Group.
The Dairy Traceability Working Group was established in 2014 following the recommendations of the Government Inquiry into the Whey Protein Concentrate Contamination Incident, which were all accepted by the Government.
The New Zealand Ministry of primary Industries stressed the importance of the report and the recommendations.
“Traceability is important to rapidly identify the quantity and location of food in the supply chain and to facilitate effective recalls, and/or withdrawals of product, if they are potentially unsafe or not fit for purpose,” the ministry said.
The working group looked at the most appropriate regulatory provisions for the traceability of dairy products and developed a code of practice to guide the dairy industry in implementing the requirements.
The Working Group’s recommendations are broadly consistent with those in key New Zealand export markets such as Australia, the European Union and the United States.
The working group said that the recommendations for regulatory changes are evolutionary improvements, rather than revolutionary.
And the main improvement on the existing requirements are to tighten how traceability information is provided to MPI.
This is expected to improve the accuracy and speed with which companies provide comprehensive traceability information to MPI.
The ministry said that full implementation of the proposals will help provide full supply chain traceability.
“Given the importance of traceability in managing food safety, the recommendations of the working group will be considered for all food sectors not just dairy,” the MPI said.
The proposals include:
- Continuing the existing ‘one up, one down’ record-keeping requirement, where companies must keep a record of the product they have sourced from suppliers, and sold to customers.
- Providing traceability information:
- electronically on demand to MPI, or an independent verifier;
- as quickly as practicable, within 24 hours, or as specified by MPI or the verifier; and
- in a standard data format that is directly accessible and intelligible.
- Companies must hold independently verified practical tests of traceability processes, if a product recall has not taken place in the past 12 months.
- Proposals should be reviewed three years after implementation, or earlier if a significant traceability event negatively affects “Brand New Zealand.
The ministry is using the proposals as a basis for new traceability regulatory requirements.
Minor changes to the primary legislation will be needed to implement the proposals. These will be made through the Food Safety Law Reform Bill to clarify and make traceability more explicit in primary legislation.
More extensive changes to the regulations and notices issued by MPI will be needed to implement the proposals. MPI will consult publicly on these proposed changes.
The New Zealand government said that it intends to consult on the proposals in July 2015.
“We are conscious that there are a number of changes taking place for businesses in the next year. With this in mind, MPI aims to align the implementation of the traceability proposals with the implementation of the Food Act 2014 to provide industry with certainty,” the ministry said.
“MPI expects the new traceability requirements to be implemented by 1 March 2016 when the Food Act 2014 comes fully into force.”
To minimise the impact of the new traceability requirements on businesses, the ministry said it will consider whether a transitional period is required. MPI will also develop guidance material to assist the industry to comply with the new regulatory requirements.
The working group also made 13 other recommendations on issues that were outside of the group’s scope. MPI is considering how far existing work can be expanded to cover these recommendations, or where additional activity should be undertaken.
Food Safety Minister Jo Goodhew (pictured above) welcomed the Dairy Traceability Working Group’s reports.
“The group was formed following a recommendation from the Government Inquiry into the Whey Protein Concentrate Contamination Incident, with a mandate to investigate dairy traceability,” Mrs Goodhew said.