Protecting Australians from unsafe food
20 March 2017
- The Coalition Government is consulting on draft legislation to strengthen the management of imported food safety risks
- Changes are designed to reduce the risk of unsafe food entering the domestic market
- Food importers with strong food safety systems in place should be well-placed to manage the changes
The Coalition Government is strengthening its borders to place tighter controls on imported food, to better protect Australians from food safety and health risks.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, said comprehensive changes would be introduced to give Australian consumers greater assurance at the supermarket that imported food is safe, without burdening local importers with unnecessary red tape.
“The Coalition Government is committed to keeping Australia’s borders strong and has set about amending the imported food laws, the changes include giving the government greater scope to hold food at the border if there are reasonable grounds to suspect food poses a serious risk to human health,” Minister Joyce said.
“They address limitations with the current regulatory framework for the management of imported food safety risks, which were uncovered following the frozen berries linked to the hepatitis A outbreak in February 2015.
“This government is working on a number of fronts to strengthen our ability to identify, respond to and manage imported food safety risks to keep the people of this nation safe and healthy.”
Minister Joyce said the government had consulted widely on draft legislation to strengthen the management of imported food safety risks, which will now be subject to further consultation before it is introduced to Parliament.
“Under the changes, if the berries incident arose again, the Secretary of my Department could trigger a holding order for these imports at the border,” Minister Joyce said.
“It is a testament to the strength of our current system that, while Australia imports a wide range of food products from across the globe, there have only been a handful of incidents in recent decades.
“We consider any incident as one too many, and these reforms include both legislative and non-legislative changes to comprehensively strengthen the ability to identify, respond to, and manage imported food safety risks.
“Through these reforms, we are increasing the accountability of importers, taking into consideration the food safety and regulatory systems in countries of origin and introducing stronger traceability requirements.
“This is a comprehensive suite of changes to manage import food safety risks, developed in consultation not only with industry representatives, but also state and territory food authorities, trading partners and key Commonwealth agencies and departments.
“The reforms will not result in price increases for imported food or a reduction in the range of food available.
“Australia is the proud exporter of premium, clean and safe food that meets the very high standards set by our international trading partners.
“Aussie consumers must have the same level of assurance if they choose to buy imported food at local supermarkets or the corner store.”
- The value of food being imported is increasing, with a five year trend growth rate of 10.3 per cent for processed food and 7.9 per cent for unprocessed food.
- There are around 16,000 food importing businesses bringing food into Australia per annum. Around 11 per cent of these businesses are fundamentally in the business of imported food.
- Foodborne illness is a serious public health and safety issue in Australia. It is estimated there are around 4.1 million episodes of gastrointestinal foodborne illness in Australia each year, some of which are fatal.