Tuesday, June 25, 2024

NZ Food Safety serves up tougher import rules

Tougher requirements for all New Zealand food importers came into effect yesterday.

New Zealand Food Safety deputy director-general, Vincent Arbuckle says the move will make imported food safer for consumers.

“The changes clarify the role and responsibilities of food importers when they bring food into New Zealand, to ensure that the food is safe and suitable for Kiwi consumers,” said Mr Arbuckle.

“Most food importers won’t have to make any changes to comply with the new rules, some will have to make minor tweaks, and a small number will have to dramatically improve their procedures.

“We encourage all registered food importers to go and check the Ministry for Primary Industries website to make sure they are following the updated rules.”

Food importing requirements

The rule changes are detailed in a Food Notice that was issued in February 2023, and provide detailed requirements for four key areas for food importers. The food importer must conduct a safety and suitability assessment before the food is brought to New Zealand, make sure the food is stored and transported in a safe way, keep proper records, and have a recall plan in case anything goes wrong, the Ministry of Primary Industries outlined in a statement.

Requirements for Registered Food Importers and Imported Food for Sale

“Food importers have always had to ensure their food is safe and suitable; the new rules provide them with clarity on what they need to do to meet their responsibilities,” said Mr Arbuckle.

“We’re sure importers and retailers would like to avoid expensive recalls, like those seen recently with frozen berries and tahini, and complying with these new rules will help them to ensure their food is safe and minimise the likelihood of things going wrong.

“This means that consumers can be confident that all imported food is subject to consistently high safety standards.”

New Zealand Food Safety began consultations with the industry about the new rules in June 2022 and has been in regular contact with food importers about the strengthened rules.

Food importers who fail to follow safety rules can face fines of up to $500,000 for a company, while an individual can be fined up to $100,000 and be jailed for up to two years.

Guidance for importers is available on the New Zealand Food Safety website, and food importers with any questions can contact New Zealand Food Safety on 0800 00 83 33 or info@mpi.govt.nz.

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