These sections outline New Zealand's approach to sustainable use of its vast marine environment.

Supply Chain

These sections outline New Zealand's approach to ensuring supply chain integrity within the seafood industry.


These sections outline New Zealand's approach to the welfare of workers and indigenous communities involved in seafood production.

Food safety.

New Zealand’s food safety system is designed to provide safe and suitable food in New Zealand and for export.
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.
New Zealand exports seafood to a large number of countries. For this reason, the food safety system has been designed to align with international best practice, most notably the principles of Codex Alimentarius.
In terms of exports, the New Zealand Government cannot issue official assurances unless the business has demonstrated compliance with all food safety requirements through external verification.
This section details the approach to food safety and fitness for purpose of seafood produced in and exported from New Zealand. The focus is largely on the Animal Products Act and the Food Standards Code, which legislate food safety controls for seafood exports. More information on the food safety system and industry standards can be found by clicking on the Related Sections, Deeper Reading or downloable PDF features.

New Zealand’s regulatory responsibilities for food safety apply to all food made and/or consumed within New Zealand and up to the point of import by another country.

New Zealand’s food safety system requires a focus on proactively identifying and managing biological, chemical and physical hazards across the food supply chain that could present a food safety risk. The aim is to reduce the likelihood that a food safety risk would occur and to enable the business to quickly identify and manage real and potential incidents.

Legal requirements for safety and suitability of seafood are described in two main Acts of Parliament: the Food Act 2014 and Animal Products Act (APA) 1999. Under these Acts, further legislation is enacted by the Government through Regulations, Standards, Specifications and Notices, Regulated Control Schemes, and national programmes.

The Ministry for Primary Industries is the regulatory agency responsible for legislation on all aspects of food safety from sea to plate – including production, processing, transport and retailing. Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) also establishes food labelling and composition standards – including limits for some microorganisms and contaminants.

The seafood industry meets the requirements of New Zealand’s food safety legislation through programmes such as Risk Management Programmes and Food Control Plans.

The specific food safety requirements that apply to each business depend on the type of processing activity being conducted (i.e. primary or secondary), where that activity occurs (i.e. on land or at sea) and the market to which the product is sold.

The majority of seafood produced in New Zealand is produced in land-based or factory vessels operating under a Risk Management Programme. The purpose of a Risk Management Programme is to identify and manage the relevant food safety hazards and other risk factors related to wholesomeness and truth of labelling. Each individual seafood business is responsible for developing, implementing, maintaining and registering a programme that is specific to the activities within their operations.

The legislative requirements of a Risk Management Programme focus on:

  • processing activities and HACCP application,
  • good operating practices,
  • operator verification,
  • documentation and records, and
  • system administration.

A Risk Management Programme must be registered with the Government and independently verified by a Government approved service provider.

Food Control Plans for high risk businesses are similar in nature to Risk Management Programmes but enforced under separate legislation.

There were 3 food safety recalls undertaken in New Zealand last year that related to seafood.
New Zealand Government
Ministry for Primary Industries
All Risk Management Programmes must document and detail corrective action procedures and recall procedures. It must include a system for notification as soon as possible when seafood or seafood related products are recalled from trade, distribution or consumers.
Food Safety Factsheet
Download a short summary of the key points from this section. The professionally designed format makes it easy to share soft copies and print hard copies.
Food Safety Section Detail Report
To learn more about New Zealand's food safety system, download the full OpenSeas report here. All references and links (where available) are included.
New Zealand's food safety regulatory model
Download a simplified diagram of New Zealand's food safety regulatory model.
The New Zealand Seafood Standards Council and the Ministry for Primary Industries have jointly developed a Code of Practice for the Processing of Seafood Products (downloadable below). The objective of the code is to outline the acceptable or agreed procedures for meeting the regulatory requirements.
Evaluations and verifications are a core part of the food safety system. Businesses are required to conduct their own internal verification, and therefore ensure preventive controls are in place, rather than simply reacting to issues once they occur. External verifications are also required. The frequency of external verification is provided for in legislation through the Performance Based Verification system, which allows the frequency of external verification to be based on performance. For seafood businesses that export, the frequency is capped at six monthly audits.
The purpose of New Zealand's food safety system is not only to protect public health and safety, but also to facilitate access to export markets. New Zealand has formal agreements with a number of countries that give recognition to New Zealand's food safety system. For seafood, this includes arrangements with the United States of America and European Union. New Zealand's food safety system also has formal recognition in Australia through Food Standards Australia New Zealand and implementation of a joint Food Standards Code.
Information verification procedures
All content generated on this page is referenced from the OpenSeas Section Detail Report (downloadable above).

The OpenSeas report was prepared by a technical expert, with demonstrable knowledge and experience in the topic at hand. An internal fit-for-purpose review was conducted by the OpenSeas Programme Director, which may have included external scientific or operational expertise. An external scope and accuracy review was conducted by the relevant regulatory agency(ies) (i.e. New Zealand Government departments).

The report author was responsible for revising the report in line with recommendations from reviews and retains final responsibility for the report content.
Section Detail Report Author:
Cathy Webb
Seafood Standards Manager, Seafood Standards Council
Page last updated: 29 May 2019
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