Food safety

The objective of the food safety system is to provide safe and suitable food in New Zealand and for export. MPI is responsible for legislation that covers all aspects of food safety, including production, processing, transport and retailing.


Our food safety work

The New Zealand food safety system extends from "farm to fork". It covers all food and beverages for human consumption, as well as pet foods, animal feed, and agricultural compounds and veterinary medicines (ACVMs).

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) aims to ensure that the health and safety risks from food are negligible and that consumer health and wellbeing are protected. We also support access to export markets.

MPI:

  • develops, regulates and implements food standards
  • provides official assurances and other certification for wine, animal, and plant food products for exporters to governments in overseas markets
  • tightly controls the products that can be used in agriculture
  • responds to food safety incidents and suspected breaches of legislation.

Poster helps explain system

MPI has developed an interactive poster to help you understand the system and how the various parts are connected. Some of the boxes and text in the poster link to website pages where you can get more information.

Food safety legislation

Four Acts regulate the safety of food that's produced in New Zealand and is sold locally or to export markets:

  • Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Act 1997
  • Animal Products Act 1999
  • Food Act 2014
  • Wine Act 2003.

New Food Act enhances food safety

The Food Act 2014 will come into effect on 1 March 2016 and introduces a new approach to food safety for businesses operating under it. The Act focuses on how food is produced – rather than on the premises where it is made. Under the Act, businesses that have a higher food safety risk will operate under more stringent food safety checks than those considered lower risk.

Maintaining high standards for food products

MPI develops the standards that food businesses must meet. This includes setting thresholds for contaminants and residues, including those left by pesticides and veterinary medicines used in growing plants and animals for food.

New Zealand works closely with Australia to develop joint food standards for food labelling and composition through arrangements such as the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code and the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Agreement. 

MPI also works in the broader international setting to negotiate and develop food safety regulations and requirements, and help secure access for New Zealand products to export markets.

Monitoring food safety

MPI audits and monitors New Zealand's food safety system and enforces food safety requirements. This includes approving food businesses' plans for managing food safety. These identify any potential food safety risks involved in making food, and set out operating procedures to minimise food hazards.

We run food monitoring programmes to make sure food produced here stays within safe limits for chemical residues, contaminants or toxins.

MPI also monitors food imported into New Zealand. This includes:

  • checking that food imports meet acceptable levels for microbiological pathogens and chemical residues
  • identifying any new food safety issues
  • checking if food safety controls here and in exporting countries are adequate.

Controlling the use of agricultural compounds and veterinary medicines

Agricultural compounds and veterinary medicines (ACVMs) can help support and increase New Zealand's food production, but can also cause serious problems in areas ranging from human health to international trade. To manage this risk, all ACVMs imported, manufactured, sold or used in New Zealand are:

  • assessed under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996
  • tightly controlled under the Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Act 1997.

Food assurance and verification services

Verification and compliance

Evaluating and verifying that food businesses are meeting their food safety requirements is a core part of the food safety system.

Most verification work is carried out by people or organisations, such as territorial authorities, formally recognised as having sufficient competence and independence. MPI verifies that premises processing meat, seafood and other animal products follow appropriate risk management and food safety programmes.

MPI also investigates breaches of the Food Act and the Animal Products Act, and coordinates product recalls for unsafe or unsuitable foods. MPI's chief executive can issue food recalls when needed, and make statements warning the public of broader food safety risks.

Assurance and certification

Some governments require the New Zealand government to provide assurances that exported products meet New Zealand standards, as well as any special standards or requirements negotiated with export markets. This includes food safety, biosecurity and animal welfare requirements. MPI issues these assurances.

Find out more

You can read the Acts that relate to food safety on the New Zealand Legislation website.

Who to contact

If you have questions about food safety, email info@mpi.govt.nz.

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