30-year overhaul aims to clean up food

Cafes and restaurants with a good hygiene record will have fewer visits from health inspectors after the biggest overhaul of food safety regulations in 30 years.

Big changes were needed to the $22 billion industry, employing about 20 per cent of New Zealand workers, Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson said.

Regulations had not been thoroughly reviewed for more than 30 years. They imposed unnecessary costs on businesses and were not doing enough to protect consumers or reduce food poisoning, she said. There was also a lack of clarity in the roles of regulators, the Food Safety Authority and local authorities.

Under the changes, developed in the past two years, local councils will provide a "one-stop shop" for new businesses, and food safety advice.

The laws aim to make businesses take greater responsibility for safety and hygiene, rather than health inspectors identifying problems.

The inspection regime will be scrapped in favour of "Food Control Plans", to be lodged with local councils. These will detail how certain foods, such as chicken, are to be cooked.

Businesses that filed adequate plans and passed routine audits would not be inspected as regularly as under the current system of snap inspections, Ms Wilkinson said. "It all depends on the risk factor. Some businesses that have lesser risk factors don't have to be inspected or audited as often so they will have less visits.

The legislation is due in Parliament late next year or early 2011.

The Dominion Post