What are the food regulatory priorities in 2024?


Posted By and on 14/02/24 at 12:26 PM

As most readers will be aware, Australia’s food regulatory laws are created and enforced by hundreds of different government departments and agencies. While this may seem quite a lot for a country with as small a population as Australia, it was incredibly refreshing for many representatives of these different regulators to come together in the one place at the ANZ Food Regulatory System Stakeholder Forum on 1 February 2024. This article summarises the key information provided at that Forum that is most relevant from a food industry perspective, particularly the regulatory priorities that were identified for 2024.  


The event was hosted and attended by a large number of regulators within the health and food sector, including the Assistant Secretary on Preventative Health and Food Branch, the Australian Government Department of Health Care and Aged Care, the CEO of the NSW Food Authority, the Director of Food and Safety and Regulation SA, the Director of Nutrition Policy, Preventive Health and Food Australian Government Department of Health and Aged Care and closing with an update from the CEO of FSANZ. 

It was truly refreshing to see so many regulators come together in a collegial environment. Often the industry experience working with so many different government agencies is a lack of transparency and communication. This Forum went a long way to prove to industry that these bodies do work together, do communicate, do seek consistency in enforcement, and are (somewhat) open to telling us what is going on behind the scenes. 


The major focus at the Forum was on national engagement and sector-based initiatives to address foodborne illnesses in line with Proposal P1053 Food Safety Management Tools, in particular campylobacter and salmonella, which are caused by horticulture, poultry eggs and food service market failures more broadly. 

It was confronting to see figures presented by the CEO of the NSW Food Authority showing that the implemented strategies to address campylobacter appeared largely ineffective. Reported cases in Australia were shown to have increased by 10% since the commencement of national initiatives, particularly in poultry. Moreover, the rates of the disease appeared to be exponentially increasing in Australia when compared to other countries, such as the US (acknowledging potential issues with different reporting systems but noting that the underlying trends are hard to dispute). In stark contrast, it appeared that the national strategies implemented to address Salmonella had been largely effective, with reported cases dropping by 20% between 2017 and 2022.  


Stakeholders in the food sector should keep their eyes out for updates on the following regulatory changes, and consider how they might impact their business. 

Potential ban on “industrially-produced” trans fats  

In August 2019, the Food Ministers agreed to a program of activities to address chronic diseases related to obesity. The 3 proposed policy options that arose from the 2023 public consultation to address this issue included: 

  • Voluntary reformulation. 
  • Regulatory limits for industrial trans fats in processed foods. 
  • Prohibit use of partially hydrogenated oils in processed foods.  

It is expected that the Decision Regulation Impact Statement (RIS) with a preferred policy option and implementation mechanism will be provided in the second quarter of 2024 

How to limit “unhealthy food marketing to children” 

Could junk food ever be regulated like cigarettes? All of food service (but particularly quick service), confectionery, beverages, and general purveyors of hot chips should all take note. The day after the Forum (on 2 February 2024), the Federal Department of Health and Aged Care opened consultation on a feasibility study into how the marketing of “unhealthy food” to children might be further restricted. Industry has only until 15 March 2024 to submit any comments it may have.  

Sugar-sweetened beverages potentially subject to further regulation 

Oh, and “unhealthy” beverage suppliers should also be aware Food Ministers have not forgotten to keep their sights on “sugar-sweetened beverages” as a preventative health concern, due to their association with health conditions related to being overweight, obese, and dental care issues. While a regulatory impact statement and policy options paper is still being drafted, industry should prepare for public consultation by mid-2024. 

Health Star Rating System  

Could Health Star labelling become mandatory? It certainly looks like it. In 2020, as part of the five-year review, Food Ministers agreed to set targets to measure the success of the Health Star Rating:  

  • Interim target 1 (at three years) – 50% of intended products have applied the HSRS by 14 November 2023. 
  • Interim target 2 (four years)- 60% of intended products have applied the HSRS by 14 November 2024. 
  • Final target (at five years) -70% of intended products have applied the HSRS by 14 November 2025. 

While numbers are still being collated, unofficial monitoring shows current uptake to be well below these targets. The important takeaway from this is that if these targets are not met, Ministers have agreed to consider a mandatory system. At the Forum, it was acknowledged by regulators that the system may not be applied consistently across different food categories … but no commitment was made to explore the underlying fallacy beneath Health Star Ratings (that consumers don’t compare foods across categories).  


During the question-and-answer component of the Forum, questions were raised on regulatory barriers to innovation in food, given that sustainable food manufacturing practices and cultured meat are currently quite topical. It was clear that this was not a priority stream for 2024, noting that Proposal P1024 – Revision of the Regulation of Nutritive Substances & Novel Foods has been on the FSANZ work plan since 2012. 


If you have any questions on how the key projects for 2024 and 2025 might apply to you, please contract our Food & Beverage team to discuss via our dedicated email address (food@khq.com.au) or call us on (03) 9663 9877. 

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KHQ Lawyers - Sarah Kasner

Sarah Kasner Lawyer

Sarah is a lawyer in our Corporate & Commercial team, specialising primarily in food and beverage and other regulatory compliance areas within the FMCG sector.Read More

KHQ Lawyers - Charles Fisher

Charles Fisher Principal Solicitor

Since completing his Bachelor of Laws and Legal Practice and Bachelor of Arts in 2006, Charles has spent the entirety of his legal career staring at the Food Standards Code (among many other pieces... Read More