Changes to the new food code in Australia and New Zealand are underway as the food agency for the two countries calls for comment from industry, government and consumers on a raft of fresh proposals.
Food manufacturers have applied for approval to use a number of processing aids, including octanoic acid on meat and vegetables, an ice-structuring protein in ice cream and edible ices, to bring into the food chain GM corn, and finally, to reduce the energy factor assigned to maltitol in food.
The agency has also raised proposals of its own: to review the cyclamate permissions in all foods; to investigate the mandatory fortification of foods with folic acid; and to review the labelling requirements for the minimum reference age of infant foods.
The Australian branch of US firm Ecolab has submitted an application to amend the food standards code to allow the use of octanoic acid as a processing aid in water in various formulations to be used as an anti-microbial treatment on red meat, poultry carcasses and fresh fruits and vegetables.
FSANZ concluded that octanoic acid in these formulations 'is effective in reducing bacterial contamination and is technologically justified' and there are 'no public health and safety concerns'. The agency is calling for comments on the pre-market safety assessment and efficacy assessment conducted by itself.
Unilever Australia applied to the food agency to approve the use in the food code of an ice structuring protein, found naturally in a wide variety of organisms existing in very cold climates, including plants, some deep sea fish, insects and fungi, used in the preparation of ice cream and edible ices, for example frozen yoghurts and frozen fruit drinks.
Unilever Australia claims use of the protein, made by a fermentation process from bakers' yeast using techniques already used for producing enzymes in food industry, will help produce better textured and more stable frozen products.
The Australian arm of Danish ingredients firm Danisco has applied for an extension of the use of natamycin, or pimaricin, as a food additive. The compound is already approved and used widely in Australia and New Zealand as an anti-microbial agent in cheeses and manufactured meats but Danisco Australia has applied for approval to include breads, baked goods, dairy products and sauces.
"Natamycin is a naturally occurring antimicrobial agent produced by the bacterium Streptomyces natalensis. Active at low concentrations against a wide spectrum of yeasts and moulds. FSANZ will need to conduct a pre-market safety assessment of any extended use of natamycin in the food supply," the agency writes this week.
US biotech giant Dow AgroSciences has applied for approval to use its genetically modified (GM) corn in the food supply. The corn, genetically modified to provide protection from insect pests and tolerance to glufosinate ammonium herbicide, must undergo a safety assessment by FSANZ before approval can be given. "FSANZ must satisfy itself that the GM food is as safe as its non-GM counterpart," said the agency.
The food body has also initiated a review of use of the intense sweetener cyclamate across the whole food supply following publication of a FSANZ evaluation report 'Consumption of intense sweeteners in Australia and New Zealand' earlier this year.
FSANZ reports: "A 7-day diary survey conducted on the consumption of cyclamate and other sweeteners concluded that some consumers of cyclamate products currently on sale in Australia and New Zealand exceeded the acceptable daily intake (ADI) for cyclamate."
Inviting stakeholder comments, the agency said it had undertaken the FSANZ the review to determine "whether regulatory action should be considered and has initially proposed various risk management options."
French firm Roquette Fréres has requested a reduction in the energy factor assigned to maltitol, a sugar alcohol sweetener widely used as an ingredient in sugar-free confectionery, baked goods and ice cream. And although often used to replace sugars in the manufacture of sugar-free foods, it may also be used to replace fat as it gives a creamy texture to food.
FSANZ conducted a risk assessment and concluded that a reduction in maltitol's energy factor to 12 kilojoules per gram is 'warranted'. This change would provide noticeable benefits to consumers and to industry.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) said this week that comments must be forwarded before the 1 December this year.