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Caffeinated foods and beverages at the top of Ministerial Council agenda

Published: 11 May 2011

FREE ARTICLE
By Joe Lederman
FoodLegal Lawyers and Consultants
© Lawmedia Pty Ltd, May 2011

On 6 May 2011, the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council met in Canberra. The discussion focused on caffeinated foods and beverages, as well as infant formula products, mandatory fortification of wheat flour, voluntary food safety performance reporting and matters raised by the recent Blewett Review.

1. Caffeinated Foods and Beverages

The Federal Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing, Catherine King, as Chairperson of the Council, together with the Ministers and other State and Territory representatives, ordered a comprehensive review of the 2003 Policy Guideline on the Addition of Caffeine to Foods. This move follows concerns being expressed by various government agencies over the increasing number of energy drinks on the market containing caffeine and similar ingredients.

In a public statement, Ms King said that the market for caffeinated beverages has changed substantially since the introduction of the Policy Guideline on Addition of Caffeine to Foods, and a full review was needed to take into consideration global developments in caffeinated products and regulatory approaches being taken in comparable overseas markets.

The Ministerial Council is expected to make a decision as to whether there is a need to refer the issue to Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) for further regulatory action following results and findings of this policy review.

The Ministerial Council is also awaiting advice from the Intergovernmental Committee on Drugs to see how it plans to respond to the issue of mixing alcohol with caffeinated beverages.

FoodLegal has previously written about government concerns over the issue of caffeinated beverages and caffeinated alcoholic beverages:

April 2011, "AQIS denies Free Trade Argument in Red Bull blockage" 

December 2010, “Commentary on recent regulatory trends in beverage law review s in the United States and Australia – Part 1 – Caffeinated beverages”

September 2010, “Rethinking Caffeine: New Zealand Food Safety Authority and Risk Profile on Caffeine”

February 2010, “Feeling Jittery? Some of the legal risks of adding caffeine to food.”

 

2. Policy Guideline on the Regulation of Infant Formula Products

At the 6 May 2011 meeting of the Ministerial Council, Ministers also considered a new Policy Guideline developed by the Food Regulation Standing Committee for the regulation of infant formula products.

The Policy Guideline requires a pre-market assessment by FSANZ of all substances proposed for use in infant formula that do not have a history of safe use in these products. This pre-market assessment involves substantiating the role of the substance in normal infant growth and development.

 

3. Mandatory Fortification of Wheat Flour for Bread Making

In September 2009, a requirement was introduced in Standard 2.1.1 Cereals and Cereal Products that mandated fortification of all wheat flour for making bread with folic acid.

The objective of the mandatory folic acid fortification has been to reduce the number of neural tube defects in the Australian population by increasing folic acid intakes for women who may become pregnant.

As was agreed by the Ministerial Council back in 2007, an independent review of Standard 2.2.1 was to take place to evaluate its health impacts.

This will now be conducted by a working group, comprised of members nominated by the Australian Health Ministers’ Advisory Council. The Food Regulation Standing Committee is to develop terms of reference for the review and oversee the review process.

 

4. Recommendation for restaurant and shop food safety performance reporting becoming nationally publicly available

The Ministerial Council is currently overseeing the progress of a voluntary initiative to publicly display consumer food safety performance assessments following inspections by local council officers throughout Australia.

This initiative is designed to ensure national consistency and transparency in reporting the food safety performance of restaurants and other food businesses, and to enable consumers to compare hygiene ratings of the food outlets and businesses they visit.

 

5. Blewett Review on Food Labelling Law and Policy

The Australian Council also discussed the development of the Blewett Review on Food Labelling final report Labelling Logic released in January 2011.

The Ministerial Council has agreed to take a systematic approach to evaluating each of the 61 recommendations. A whole-of-government approach by each jurisdiction is expected and the Ministerial Council response is due to be considered in December 2011.