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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 70

(Question No. 4749)


Mr MacKellar asked the Minister for Health, upon notice, on 10 October 1986:

(1) Has the Government prepared model food legislation recommending prescribed levels of food additives; if so, what federal authority is responsible for the preparation and updating of the legislation.

(2) Which States and Territories have not yet enacted the model food legislation and when does the Government expect them to do so.

(3) Does the model food legislation contain a recommended maximum level for the additive monosodium glutamate; if so, what is that level.

(4) In those States and Territories where the legislation has been enacted, have the recommended monosodium glutamate levels been adopted; if not, what levels have been adopted.

(5) Does the recommended additive level for monosodium glutamate in the model legislation apply to all commercially prepared food, including meals prepared in clubs and restaurants; if not, what are the exemptions.

(6) Is there any significant evidence to suggest a link between monosodium glutamate and harmful effects on humans.


Dr Blewett —The answer to the honourable member's question is as follows:

(1) No. The Model Food Act was prepared by a joint Commonwealth-State-Territory working party set up by and reporting to the Health Ministers' Conference.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), a joint Commonwealth-State-Territory body with the function of enquiring into, advising and making recommendations to the Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments on health issues, develops Model Food Standards Regulations (MFSR) which include the control of food additives. These are then recommended to State and Territory health authorities for inclusion in their respective regulations.

(2) While New South Wales has not adopted the Model Food Act, it has made major modifications to its existing Food Act to align it with the model act. Amendments to update the New South Wales Act are ready for presentation to Parliament.

The Northern Territory Food Act has been passed by the Legislative Assembly and is awaiting assent.

In the Australian Capital Territory, the Health Authority and the Attorney General's Department are developing an Ordinance derived from the Model Food Act. The date of completion of this is unknown.

With regard to the Regulations, the NHMRC MFSRs are being redrafted into a format suitable for endorsement by Health Ministers and adoption by all States and Territories following gazettal before April 1987.

(3) No. Monosodium glutamate is an approved food additive which may be added to foods other than infants' foods, where flavour or condiment may be added. No maximum level of use is specified.

(4) See 3.

(5) See 3.

(6) There is some evidence that a small sector of the community is hypersensitive to monosodium glutamate and can react adversely to large doses of the chemical. With respect to the majority of the community, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation/World Health Organisation Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives has studied the toxicology of monosodium glutamate and established an acceptable daily intake of 120 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. This is the amount which could be consumed every day over a lifetime without risk of adverse health effects.

The scientific evidence on all food additives, including monosodium glutamate, is kept under continuing review by the food committees of the NHMRC.