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Food Safety (Trans Fats) Bill 2009

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Food Safety (Trans Fats) Bill 2009


Explanatory Memorandum


Senator Siewert




The Food Safety (Trans Fats) Bill 2009 will prohibit, within the bounds of Commonwealth constitutional competence, the addition of synthetic trans fatty acids to food.


The bill prohibits constitutional corporations and individuals in particular circumstances from manufacturing, distributing, offering for sale, selling or otherwise trading in food containing synthetic trans fatty acids.  It replaces the present inadequate regulatory regime, while leaving scope for the States and Territories to adopt their own regulatory response in recognition of their responsibility for food standards.





1 Short title


The short title of the Bill, once enacted, will be the Food Safety (Trans Fats) Act 2009 .


2 Commencement


Clause 2 provides that the Act will commence on 1 January 2010.  This is to allow industry sufficient time to find suitable substitutes for synthetic trans fatty acids.


3 Purpose etc.


This clause identifies that the purpose of the Bill is to protect Australians from the harmful effects of trans fats, while preserving the right of States and Territories to regulate in the area of food standards.


4 Definitions


Clause 4 defines 'constitutional corporation' and 'synthetic trans fatty acids'.  


The definition of constitutional corporation ensures that a substantial proportion of businesses operating in Australia will be covered by the Bill.


The definition of 'synthetic trans fatty acids' makes it clear that the Bill does not apply to the naturally occurring trans fatty acids that are found in relatively small quantities in some foods.


5 Prohibition—corporations

Clause 5 is the key component of the Bill, as it identifies the proscribed conduct and the penalties that will apply in the event of a transgression.


Subclause 5(2) is intended to cover situations where some of the activities of constitutional corporations are performed by others.  This may include, for example, situations where foods are manufactured by others and provided to a constitutional corporation for packaging and distribution, or where a constitutional corporation establishes an external agency to distribute its products.  To ensure the Bill's comprehensive coverage, it is important that such arrangements are included.


The penalty for contravening the provisions of clause 5 is 1000 penalty units, which is consistent with analogous food safety legislation.  Section 33 of the Queensland Food Act 2006 , for example, provides for a penalty of 1000 penalty units or 2 years imprisonment for the sale of unsafe food.


6 Operation of State and Territory Laws


This clause ensures that States and Territories retain the right to legislate with respect to trans fats.  They may wish to enact complementary legislation to extend the coverage of the prohibition of trans fats, or they may wish to adopt an alternative regulatory regime.