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The RIRDC Research Project - Results mean more good news

Several members of the ANFI Working Group have been involved in an ongoing research project, funded by RIRDC and in-kind contributions by native food industry representatives. The title of the project is ‘Preparing the Native food Industry for National and Global Challenges’.

The two main themes to be developed are the establishment of a consistent policy for naming native food products and the registration of a number of products with Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) and the Codex Alimentarius. Both of these initiatives will go towards establishing a strong and professional position for the Australian industry as we seek export markets for our own native products.

Food Standards Registrations

The commercial native food industry has been hindered by a lack of recognition from regulatory bodies. This research aims to clarify the food status of some of our species as ‘novel’, ‘non-traditional’ or ‘traditional’ as they have not been part of the diet of the broad community in Australia and New Zealand. This means foods from other parts of the world, traditional native foods or new foods produced from traditional breeding techniques. Consideration of a product as ‘novel’ raises considerable difficulties for food products, not least of which is a more stringent regime for food safety and nutritional testing which for many markets simply rules the products out of contention. Recognition by FSANZ of traditional safe use of a product may expedite inclusion in international codes on similar basis.

The first part of this project was to thoroughly research and document the historic and current use of the main commercially traded native food products, both in Australia and internationally and to collate the scientific, toxicity and nutritional data available. The data for the first five native foods was to be submitted to FSANZ in December 2006 for evaluation, however due to international regulatory timelines and pressure to achieve a ruling, Lemon Myrtle was submitted in early September and achieved the most positive ruling possible, that is, confirmation by FSANZ that Lemon Myrtle is now a traditional Australian food. 

Commercially traded wattle seed (various species) also achieved a positive ruling as an Australian traditional food. The FSANZ Novel Food Committee has reviewed Aniseed Myrtle on 8 December 2006 and the results of the review will be available soon. Native Pepper (berry and  leaf) and Bush Tomato will be reviewed in January 2007. 

The ruling on inclusion of those species in the Codex Alimentarius is scheduled for 2007 and the necessary documentation will be completed

before the due date. 

The next species to be reviewed and a case for their inclusion prepared for FSANZ will be Kakadu Plum, Davidson Plum and Riberry. Expression of interest is sought from the industry to include significant other native food produce.

Native Food Nomenclature

Following the posting on the Native Foods website last year of a draft set of names for some 20 native food products, a number of industry practitioners and researchers provided thoughtful and appropriate contributions to the question of how to establish consensus in cases where regionally specific, hard to spell or confusing names have been used to label native plant food products. All this material has been collated and included in a paper which will serve as the first draft of an industry wide policy on native food names, and which will replace the current proposals on the website. Industry participants will be invited to comment once more, and to propose further products for inclusion in future rounds of the nomenclature process. 

A secondary aspect of this work will be to suggest methods for characterisation of each of the products where potential for confusion or ambiguity exists. These methods might include chemical assays, germination tests and other quality assessment procedures. The policy will be finalised mid-2007 and a working group established to deal with further additions to the list and any disputes or disagreements with the policy and to contribute to setting Research and Development policy in

the future. 

RIRDC – Research Projects

In September this year RIRDC invited input from the ANFI Working Group on a number of two page preliminary research proposals for funding in the forthcoming year. This is the first round of a selection process common to all RIRDC research programs, in which submissions are examined by an Advisory Committee and successful proponents are invited to submit full research proposals for consideration in the New Year.

As the New Plants Program presently has no native food industry representatives in its advisory committee, the research manager requested some informal input from the Working Group on the content, priority and structure of the first round proposals. Comment from four industry representatives was collated and provided to the research manager to assist in the selection process.

This exercise highlights two pressing issues: first, the need for a clearly articulated research plan for the native plant food industry and secondly, a mechanism for formal contribution by practitioners or industry representatives to the assessment process.

ANFIL, now established as an incorporated body, will press for participation in both these areas: a review of research priorities including the development of a five year plan for native foods at the earliest opportunity and representation on the Advisory Committee of a native foods sub group of the New Plant Products Program. 

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