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22 June 2017

Your feedback on special circumstances

Thanks to everyone who replied to our call on the LinkedIn and the NZIEH forums for what might be special circumstances where you can extend the timeframe for verification for new businesses. 

You mentioned quite a range of conditions that could be called special circumstances. The consensus was that you didn’t want a prescriptive list so we’re working on flexible guidelines about how to make the call on extending the timeframe.

The guidelines will be available for 1 July when the new food laws come into effect. If you’d like to be involved in testing what we’re planning, please contact Damien Cleland from the Local Government team.

Is everyone getting Food News?

This newsletter is aimed at councils, verifiers and food safety officers working under the Food Act. If you have staff in these roles, please make sure everyone is getting it. Although we will communicate in other ways as well, Food News is the official source of information about the system!

You can forward to colleagues and subscribe using the links in the green banner at the top of the newsletter.

Practice Notes for non-registered businesses

Practice Notes for dealing with businesses who haven’t registered for the Food Act in time are now available on our website.

The Notes were developed with the help of several territorial authorities and are intended to be guidance to foster national consistency. They are not meant to be a ‘one size fits all and you must do it this way’ approach.

The Notes set out time frames for action around the re-registration and transition of food businesses, along with the steps that you can take to address issues. If you have any questions about using the Notes, please contact michael.webster@mpi.govt.nz

These are the first in a series of practice notes we’ll release over the coming months to address different areas of need.

TIps and information

Important tips on creating records and forms

If you’re thinking of creating your own versions of records and forms for food businesses, it’s important to keep a few guidelines in mind.

  • The Simply Safe and Suitable Template Food Control Plan is clear about what records need to be kept. You can’t ask a business to keep more or different records than are required in the template. 
  • Not only can you not insist that a business use your version of a record or form, the way you offer the form must not imply in any way that they should choose your form over any other option that is available. They must be able to choose freely from a range of options.
  • If you’re a verifier, you can’t create a form or a record and then verify against it (that’s a bit like marking your own homework).

Provided you follow these guidelines, we’re happy for you to create your own versions of records and forms and give food businesses the choice of whether they use them.  Plus if you create some good record forms please send them to us too, so we can make them available to businesses across the country.

National Programme

New food safety laws are coming into force on 1 July. Most of the changes are small and people will just have to keep making safe and suitable food.

A key change is that national programme requirements have been set for businesses carrying out:
• Pasteurisation
• Acidification
• Fermentation
• Concentration
• Drying
• thoroughly cooking and other processes.

Other processes, which fall outside national programmes, have also been identified. Businesses wanting to carry out cold plasma processing, electromagnetic processing, high pressure processing, hydrodynamic processing and ultrasonification will need to operate under a Food Control Plan.

Another change is that low acid canning requirements have also moved from Regulations to the Food Notice.
Read the Food Notice: Requirements for Food Control Plans and National Programmes.

Letter to Mayors and CEs

Recently we wrote to the Chief Executives of all councils.

Our first letter acknowledged the concerns being raised by some councils about the implementation of the Food Act 2014, and asked how chief executives would like to be communicated with about Food Act matters in the future.

Our second letter signalled a number of implementation matters coming up in the next two years that councils should include in budget and long-term planning processes including:

  • the review of the TA verification exclusivity for template FCPs
  • development of a Quality Management System
  • Public Register User Licencing Costs
  • addressing differences in fees charged.

You can rely on the SSS Template

At some workshops we’ve had questions about the differences between the Simply Safe and Suitable template and the longer March 2017 template. People have wondered whether Simply Safe and Suitable covers all the legal requirements of the new Food Act.

The answer is yes, Simply Safe and Suitable covers everything that’s legally required under the Food Act – you can rely on it to cover all the things food service and retail need to do and then verify against it.

The apparent difference between the two templates is that the March 2017 version also included quite a lot of guidance, in addition to the actual requirements. Businesses we asked found having so much material confusing and they weren’t reading it, so that’s why the user-friendly Simply Safe and Suitable was created.

We are currently working on a toolbox to accompany Simply Safe and Suitable. This will incorporate much of the guidance previously in the longer template. The toolbox has been driven by the needs of business, who like tactile ways of learning. The toolbox will speak to that learning style.

Seeking Your help

Seeking TA help with analysis work

MPI’s Ruth Houston is currently doing work that will lead ultimately to improvements in the food safety system.  This is what we call a sector analysis and it will apply to food sectors transitioning to the Food Act 2014 in the next tranche of businesses (for example, manufacturers, bakeries, food retailers and importers). (Note: this is independent of and does not replace your verification work).

Ruth’s work will focus on businesses’ current food safety practice and behaviour, in order to establish a baseline to compare back to after the Act’s implementation. The comparison with the baseline will allow us to:
• identify key areas for improvement
• target resources and communications to areas, which most need it.

We will also assess whether our activities, and those of TAs and verifiers, have helped improve the performance of these food business.

The work involves reviewing audit reports from the verification of deemed Food Control Plan businesses and visiting, and doing a reality check, of 60 -70 businesses operating under the Food Hygiene Regulations. We want to make sure the sample of businesses is as representative as possible over the manufacturing, retail and bakery sectors. The analysis will also include 30 importers.

Ruth is an experienced MPI auditor. She needs to work with TA staff to help identify and, where possible, work in with routine inspections of businesses.

Ruth would really appreciate your help letting businesses know about the analysis work and encouraging them to take part.

If you have any questions about the sector analysis work please contact: ruth.houston@mpi.govt.nz

Training Opportunities

Verifiers and evaluators training available now

If you’ve been wondering about the difference between verification under the old Food Act and the new, now’s the time to complete the e-learning modules for verifiers and evaluators.

There are six modules including three on legal knowledge, two on verification and one on evaluation skills.

The benefit of completing these now is that they will provide you with information on the key aspects of the Food Act 2014 and Regulations 2015 and how they should be applied in practice. 

Key differences from the old to the new legislation are:

  • we all need to move from what some would call “inspecting” (i.e. using a checklist) to “verifying” (i.e. applying a verification approach that enables the operator to demonstrate how they keep food safe) 
  • there are different risk based measures for verifying different types of food business to make sure that they produce safe and suitable food.  

Access to the modules is easy. If you’ve completed some of the modules already, then you can use your existing log-in to access Tiritiri (MPI’s training site).

If you have not completed any of the modules, or you’ve lost your access to Tiritiri, please go to Register for online training, tick the Verifier and Evaluator Food Act 2014 Training Programme box and submit.

Technical training for food verifiers

The following courses are available for Verifiers:

Massey University Courses

Low-Acid Canned Food Thermal Processing Systems

Location: Hastings.
  Venue: The Heinz Watties Ltd. facility
  Dates: The Hastings course is delivered in three blocks:

- Microbiology of Canning
  July 27 and 28, 2017
  Presenter – Dr Jon Palmer

- Packaging Systems
  August 24 and 25, 2017
  Presenter – Dr Eli Gary-Stuart

- Retorting Systems (Thermal Process Equipment)
  September 28 and 29, 2017
  Presenter – Dr Richard Love

Course Fees: $1199.00 (+GST) plus Manual - $180 (+GST)

Location: Auckland 
Venue: Massey University, Albany Campus, North Shore City, Auckland

Dates: July 24 - 28 2017 (duration: 5 days)

NB: Confirmation of this course is subject to sufficient enrolments being received.

Course fee: $1834.00 (+GST) plus Manual $180 (+GST)

For more information and registration forms for the Massey programmes, either Hastings or Auckland -
Contact Eteta Trueman: E.Trueman@massey.ac.nz

DWC Foodtech programmes - Auckland

• Operators and Supervisors Course for UHT Processing and Aseptic Packaging – 5 days
Cost: $3450 (+ GST)

• Approved Persons Course for UHT Processing and Aseptic Packaging – 5 days
Cost: $3450 (+ GST)

June courses are full. The dates for later in 2017 will be confirmed once enough registrations are received.

Presenters: Dr Darian Warne and Doug Bremner (DWC Foodtech)

For more information and to register - contact: info@foodinnovationnetwork.co.nz
Telephone: 09 254 4730 Freephone: 0508NZFOOD

For your information

Why are ECE Centres included in the Food Act?

As you know, certain operations in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) sector need to register for the Food Act by 30 June. The Food Act requirements are new for this sector and we’ve received questions about why ECE sector has been included under the Food Act.

In case you are asked similar questions, ECE centres are included under the Food Act because:
• children are among the most vulnerable populations for food-related illness
• ECE centres are considered high-risk.

The main sources of information about food-related illnesses are Ministry of Health surveillance reports

The reports are compiled by the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) from national health data.

They show ECE centres are high-risk locations. Since 2011 they:
• were either the second-or-third-highest common setting for outbreaks of food-related illness (90% of the cases are gastrointestinal)
• had the second-highest number of individual cases of food-related illness. This means that significant numbers of vulnerable children and others in ECE settings were affected.

To decide who to include under the Food Act, MPI used a detailed risk-ranking process. This process found ECE centres were high-risk. Factors measured in the process included the type of food served, its intended use, food preparation, whether food was targeted at vulnerable populations, and how many people might be affected in a food illness outbreak.

ECE centres work under a national programme 2. This ensures the risks are adequately managed as long as the centres follow the food safety requirements.