New Zealand food legislation

Learn about the 4 main Acts which regulate the safety of food produced and sold in New Zealand or intended for export, and how food legislation is made and updated.

Understanding the legislative framework

Legislation falls into 3 main categories:

  • primary legislation – Acts, which become legislation through a majority vote in parliament
  • secondary legislation – Regulations, which are made under Acts and are introduced by the Minister, approved by Cabinet and issued by the Governor-General
  • tertiary instruments – Notices, Orders, Specifications and Standards, which, under the Acts and Regulations, can be issued by the Director General of MPI. Some of these may be issued by the Minister and may also be classed as ‘Deemed Regulations’, for example Food Standards.

You can find out more about how this legislation is made by visiting the New Zealand Parliament website.

New Zealand Parliament (External website)

There are 4 Acts, which govern MPI's food safety responsibilities:

  • Food Act 1981 (in transition) or 2014 (current)
  • Animal Products Act 1999
  • Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Act 1997
  • Wine Act 2003.

Food Act

MPI is responsible for administering the Food Act, which regulates domestic food produced or sold in New Zealand.

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.

Animal Products Act (APA) 1999

The purpose of the APA is to protect human and animal health and facilitate access to overseas markets. The risk management system under the APA potentially covers operations for all animal materials and products from production and harvesting to processing, transport, storage and export.

New Zealand Legislation: Animal Products Act 1999 (External website)

The APA establishes a regulatory regime that requires all animal products traded and used to be 'fit for intended purpose'. Food businesses do this by meeting standards for animal products. The regime comprises the following types of controls:

  • Standards – these are issued under the Act as Regulations or Notices
  • Risk Management Programmes (RMPs), which are implemented by businesses processing animal material to manage food safety hazards and ensure that resulting animal products meet relevant standards
  • Regulated Control Schemes (RCSs) – these are imposed and managed by MPI in circumstances where it is more efficient to control food-related risks, such as contaminants and residues, through a national programme
  • Export controls, which are issued by MPI and include Overseas Market Access Requirements (OMARs), General Requirements for Export (GREX) and official assurances.

You can find out more about these by clicking on Animal Products Act 1999 in the left-hand menu.

There is further information about exporting, including OMARs, official assurances and GREX in the Exporting section of the site.


Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines (ACVM) Act 1997

The ACVM Act controls the agricultural compounds and veterinary medicines used in association with animals and plants. The ACVM Act regulates the import, manufacture, sale and use of agricultural compounds and veterinary medicines to ensure compliance with domestic food residue standards through, for example, directions on labels. It also manages risks to public health, trade in primary produce, animal welfare and agricultural security.

New Zealand Legislation: Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Act 1997 (External website)

Under the ACVM Act, MPI can:

  • impose conditions on the import, manufacture, sale and use of agricultural compounds to ensure they do not cause a breach of food residue standards, which could adversely affect consumers or animals or jeopardise international trade
  • restrict access to, and use of certain agricultural compounds and veterinary medicines
  • prohibit certain substances from use as agricultural compounds or as ingredients in agricultural compounds.

Under the ACVM Act, all veterinary medicines must be authorised. You can find further information about this in the ACVM section of the website.

Agricultural compounds & veterinary medicines

There are standards under the ACVM Act, which food produced or imported into New Zealand must meet. You can find out more about this on the page, ACVM Act 1997 in the left-hand menu.

Wine Act 2003

The Wine Act covers the making of wine in New Zealand including grape wine, fruit and vegetable wine, cider and mead. The key objectives of the Act are to:

  • provide for the setting of standards for identity, truth in labelling and the safety of wine
  • minimise and manage risks to human health associated with the making of wine
  • facilitate the entry of wine into overseas markets.

Most winemakers meet these requirements through implementing a Wine Standards Management Plan (WSMP). You can find out more about WSMPs in the Wine section of the site.

About WSMPs

Many of the requirements, which the wine industry meets under the Wine Act are described in Regulations and Notices. You can find out more about these on the page, Wine Act 2003 in the left-hand menu.