The new National Food Authority promoted cooperation between governments, industry and the community to provide a safe and wholesome food supply. In particular, the aim was to provide uniformity and consolidation of food standards across Australia. It is now known as Food Standards Australia New Zealand. Under the system, Australian states and territories administer their own food acts, which are based on a national model and incorporate national food standards automatically as laws in their jurisdictions.
In Australia’s early colonial days, food quantity rather than food quality was of prime importance. Many key ingredients were scarce, leading to the contamination of food products with various “fillers”, some of them harmful. Bread, for example, was often contaminated with ash. This lead to the first Australian food manufacturing regulation, issued by Governor King in 1801 to control baking quality.
Adulteration of food remained a concern, partly from the point of view of health and partly as a matter of fair trading. Milk was routinely adulterated with water, with other substances being substituted for or added to pepper, oatmeal, salad oil and even vinegar. In the colony of Victoria, an Act to Prevent the Adulteration of Articles of Food and Drink was passed in 1863.
After Federation, the States retained the responsibility for food regulation. Victoria led the way towards combating adulteration with the Pure Food Act of 1905 and over the next five years, four more states passed similar legislation. From the 1950s, the states and territories supported the development of national uniform food legislation. The Commonwealth Model Food Act was agreed in 1980
The formation of the National Food Authority united the state, territory and Commonwealth governments and led to the consolidation and amendment of many laws relating to the preparation and sale of food, labelling, hygiene requirements and regulation, administration and enforcement of food laws. The Food Standards Code was introduced in 2002.