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New Zealand strengthens food safety law in wake of botulism scare

WELLINGTON, May 27 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand legislators unanimously passed a new food safety law on Tuesday, paving the way for a faster response to crises such as the false botulism scare that saw a global recall of dairy products last year.

"The new Food Act will put in place a risk-based approach, where regulatory requirements are based on the extent and nature of the food safety risks associated with particular kinds of businesses," Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye said in a statement.

"The Act will focus on the activities that a food business carries out, rather than the premises from which it operates."

The Act also contained provisions concerning recall powers and other powers that may be used in a food safety response.

"It was important to bring these provisions in to force as soon as possible so that government could respond to a major food safety event if one arose tomorrow," Kaye said.

The Act would provide New Zealand with a modern, flexible regulatory regime, which would enable food businesses to adapt to future changes in technology, overseas market access requirements, and consumer demands.

"The enactment of the Food Bill will not be the end of the law reform process. After enactment officials will develop regulations and guidance which will undergo a public consultation process," she said.

Earlier this month, the government announced it had begun to investigate how potentially contaminated dairy products were exported abroad in last year's botulism false alarm and global product recall.

The investigation is the final part of the Government Inquiry into the Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) Contamination Incident involving dairy giant Fonterra in August last year.

The first parts of the inquiry released in December last year resulted in the government accepting all 29 recommendations including a Food Safety Science and Research Center, a Food Safety Assurance Advisory Council, a traceability working group and the Food Bill.

Fonterra pleaded guilty in a New Zealand court last month to four food safety-related charges connected to global recall of whey protein concentrate over the false botulism scare, which happened in August last year.