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FSANZ pushing barrow on world stage

Published: 5 Mar 2009

By Joe Lederman
FoodLegal Lawyers and Consultants
© Lawmedia Pty Ltd, March 2009

In response to our article “Cassava products food standard update and international review at Codex Alimentarius” in the February 2009 issue of FoodLegal Bulletin, FoodLegal received an email from the Chief Scientist of Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). We believe that this article and FSANZ’s approach to Proposal P1002 demonstrates how FSANZ’s international agenda can affect our domestic food industry.

In an email dated 2 February 2009 to FoodLegal Bulletin editor Joe Lederman, the FSANZ Chief Scientist stated:

In relation to the draft Discussion Paper on Cyanogenic Glycosides to be presented at the Codex Committee on Contaminants in Food, you should note that the writing of this paper was led by FSANZ on behalf of the drafting group and will be presented by Australia as the lead at the Committee meeting. The purpose of the paper is to present an updated overview of the present state of knowledge of the safety of all foods containing cyanogenic glycosides, including cassava, to the attention of Codex members.

Editor’s comments

In our articles “Why Australian food companies need to consult with government on international food standards” (December 2008) and “Cassava products food standard update and international review at Codex Alimentarius (February 2009), we have critiqued the approach taken by FSANZ in Proposal P1002 – Hydrocyanic Acid in Ready-to-Eat Cassava Chips. On 25 February 2009, FSANZ released the First Review Report for Proposal P1002. In this latest Report, FSANZ has maintained its prior position and defended its own scientific approach.

In the First Review Report, FSANZ has refused a stock-in-trade transitional period to allow industry time to comply with the new Standard in order to 'protect public health and safety'. However, the alleged risk asserted by FSANZ is based on evidence that FSANZ itself has stated to be 'suboptimal' and contains 'significant uncertainties' and 'key data deficiencies' (Page 6 of the First Review Report). The role FSANZ has chosen to undertake at Codex Alimentarius Committee on Contaminants in Food may be relevant in the context of the sense of urgency that FSANZ has sought to instil in Proposal P1002.

Declaration of interest: FoodLegal has acted for food manufacturers that produce foods that contain cassava-based ingredients.