Media Release

50,000 shades of gray

​1 December 2014

Australia will be the first country to implement a scalable post-entry treatment approach to imported animal products following a recent review that identifies and recommends doses of gamma irradiation needed without reducing its effectiveness.

Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, welcomed the findings that will allow for lower gamma irradiation levels to be applied to products where pathogens are known, while still managing biosecurity risks to an acceptable level.

“The Department of Agriculture undertakes a spectrum of biosecurity measures offshore, onshore and at the border to manage biosecurity risk pests and diseases from entering and establishing in Australia. This includes applying treatments like heat treatment and gamma irradiation to imported animal products,” Minister Joyce said.

“While the department will retain its standard level of gamma irradiation of animal products in most circumstances, the review findings mean we will apply lower levels in certain circumstances.”

“Having the capacity to scale down levels of gamma irradiation on imported animal products is just another way we are modernising our approach in line with the latest science, while still applying the appropriate risk management measure.

“This can reduce the costly imposition on importers to re-export or destroy products, if they don’t meet Australia’s stringent import requirements.”

Animal products that can be treated with gamma irradiation include animal fibres, aquatic animal feed, artefacts, hides, laboratory materials and specimens, pet food, skins and veterinary medicines.

Minister Joyce said the Review of gamma irradiation as a treatment to address pathogens of animal biosecurity concern—announced last year—considered balanced sources of information on the radiosensitivity of pathogens.

“The review took into account current scientific evidence, standards and recommendations of international bodies, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the World Health Organization,” Minister Joyce said.

“But let’s be clear, irradiation will not completely replace any current production process or required treatment measures. Rather it will complement existing risk management measures to ensure we continue delivering our modern, evidence-based approach to biosecurity management.”

The review findings are for animal products, not plants or food for human consumption. Food is subject to other rigorous import standards under the Australian New Zealand Food Standards Code.

For more information about the treatments to address pathogens of animal biosecurity concern visit the Department of Agriculture’s website