Debating proposed changes to the food code, the Food Standards Australia New Zealand ( FSANZ) this week requested comments on a raft of new amendments.
In addition to the Unilever request, the changes include recommendations to clear approval for a genetically modified sweetcorn supplied by Dow AgroSciences, amendments to country of origin labelling of food; as well as clearance for France's Roquefort cheese traditionally made from raw sheep's milk.
Before changes can be made to the countries food code, FSANZ gives the community two opportunities to provide information or express an opinion on the scientific, public health, economic or social factors involved in making a change. Ice structuring protein as a processing aid (Application A544 - Draft Assessment) Unilever Australia Limited has requested that an ice structuring protein (ISP) be approved as a processing aid for the manufacture of ice cream and edible ices.
The ISP alters the ice crystal structure and consquently the properties of the commercial product, including the thermal stability, hardness, creaminess and flavour delivery.
Identical to a fish protein found in nature and that already used in the food supply, the ISP is produced from a genetically modified bakers' yeast.
"FSANZ has identified no public health or safety concerns with its proposed use and believes that its use is technologically justified," the authority writes today.
Country of Origin labelling of food (Proposal P292 - Draft Assessment) In 2000, after Australia and New Zealand moved from their own food regulations to a joint Australia New Zealand food standards code, temporary provisions for the country of origin labelling of food were included in the code. The intention was to review the temporary provisions to ensure that they were consistent with WTO obligations of the two countries and with fair trading legislation.
In 2003, the ministerial council responsible for food directed that there should be a mandatory declaration of country of origin to assist consumers to select food products.
FSANZ has identified five regulatory options in the Draft Assessment report. Its preferred option applies to all packaged and some unpackaged foods but the food authority is inviting food manufacturers and consumer groups to comment on potential impacts of this option.
Food derived from insect-protected, herbicide-tolerant corn (Application A543 - Draft Assessment) Dow AgroSciences has applied to FSANZ seeking approval for food derived from insect-protected, glufosinate ammonium-tolerant corn line DAS-59122-7. As a genetically modified corn, FSANZ requires a pre-market safety assessment of the foodstuff before it can be sold to Australian and New Zealand consumers.
"FSANZ's safety assessment has not identified any public health or safety issues connected with this application," said the authority, claiming that, in terms of safety for human consumption and nutritional adequacy, the Dow AgroSciences GM corn is equivalent to food from other commercially available corn varieties.
Sale of Roquefort cheese made from raw sheep's milk (Application A499 - Draft Assessment) - Australia only The countries' food code requires that milk and milk products for cheese production should be heat-treated to manage potential microbiological hazards.
However, the code allows the sale of raw milk cheeses where they have been assessed to have an equivalent level of safety as cheeses made from heat-treated milk.
The French government has applied for approval for the sale of Roquefort cheese made from raw sheep's milk. This application applies specifically to Roquefort cheese and not to all raw milk blue cheeses.
Evaluating the safety of Roquefort cheese FSANZ concludes: "If Roquefort cheese is manufactured according to the schedule of regulatory and industry processes provided by the French government, it poses a low risk to the health and safety of consumers."
The authority said it "is considering allowing the sale of Roquefort cheese" and invites comment on the scientific evaluation, trade implications and labelling requirements.
All feedback should reach FSANZ by 4 May 2005.