MPI's legal responsibilities for food safety

Under a range of legislation, MPI ensures that the food New Zealand produces, imports and exports is safe and suitable for domestic and international consumers.

The scope of MPI's food safety responsibilities

The provision of safe and suitable food is critical to the New Zealand economy. New Zealand has a reputation as a trusted supplier of food, which is vigorously protected by quarantine laws, border controls and a strong regulatory framework to ensure the safety and suitability of food and food-related products. MPI’s responsibility for  regulating food safety extends to both the domestic and export sectors – that is, from ‘farm to fork’. It covers:

  • harvesting, manufacturing, processing, packaging, labelling and composition, storage, transport and sale of wine, animal and plant products intended as food
  • food imported into New Zealand
  • official assurances and other certification for export of wine, animal and plant products intended as food
  • controls for registration of agricultural compounds and the use of veterinary medicines.

Food legislation

Food-related legislation in New Zealand has 2 main purposes:

  • to protect public health and safety
  • to facilitate access to domestic and export markets.

The main food legislation, which MPI is responsible for are the following Acts:

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

Operating under the Food Act

Rules for food businesses are changing – we're moving from the Food Act 1981 to the Food Act 2014. From 1 March 2016, all new businesses must operate under the Food Act.

Existing businesses (registered under the Food Act 1981 or Food Hygiene Regulations 1974 before 29 February 2016) will shift to the new Act between 2016 and 2019. Check the timetable to find out when your type of business has to transition.

To find out more about the regulatory controls that are mandated under these Acts and how they apply to the food industry in New Zealand, click on NZ food legislation in the left-hand menu or visit the sections of the website which describe how different food sectors meet food safety requirements.

Food sectors

General requirements & programmes

MPI's risk-based approach to food safety

Through a risk-based approach, MPI ensures decisions made to protect against the hazards associated with hygiene, chemicals, toxins and physical contaminants in the food supply and food supply chain are appropriate and proportionate to the risk. This approach also ensures appropriate storage, transport, packaging and labelling at all stages of the food production process.

The risk-based approach is always based on good science. Applying risk analysis in food safety depends on agreed principles and processes. The most important aspect of this is the consistent and transparent application of a risk management framework to all food safety issues. You can find out more about the risk analysis processes and how they are applied in MPI’s food safety risk management framework (RMF) in the Food science & research section of the website.

MPI's Risk Management Framework (RMF)

Benefits of a risk-based approach

The RMF facilitates interaction between government and stakeholders from across industry and internationally. It enables MPI to consult in a way that is independent of sector interests.

The role of MPI Food and Animal Product Verification (MPI Verification)

MPI Verification plays a crucial role in ensuring that animal products and certain other foods are safe and suitable for the New Zealand market and for export. It is responsible for:

  • providing verification and official assurance services, particularly in relation to animal products  
  • certification of live animals or germplasm being exported from New Zealand.

Click on the link below to find out more about MPI Verification and its work.

MPI Verification Animal and Food Products