​Media Release

Protecting Aussies with stronger imported food laws

1 June 2017

  • Tougher new powers to let authorities hold food imports at the border if reasonable suspicion of risk to human health
  • Legislation introduced today
  • Changes designed to reduce the risk of unsafe food entering the domestic market

Strengthened powers will enable authorities to hold food at the border if there are reasonable grounds to suspect it possesses a serious risk to human health.

The Coalition Government's imported food reforms, expected to be introduced to Parliament today, are aimed at better protecting Australians from food safety and health risks.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, said these comprehensive changes would give the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources additional powers to respond more quickly to potential risks to food safety.

Minister Joyce said, with around 16,000 food importing businesses bringing food into the country each year, the strength of Australia's borders to ensure the safety of the food supply chain was the number one priority of this legislation.

"The changes strengthen our imported food inspection, giving the government greater power to hold food at the border if there are reasonable grounds to suspect it possesses a serious risk to human health," Minister Joyce said.

"This will also boost the government's response and management arrangements for imported food safety risks.

"These enhanced powers address limitations to current laws such as lack of flexibility for identifying and responding to risks, highlighted through the 2015 response to the hepatitis A outbreak linked to frozen berries.

"The changes put greater onus on importers to ensure the food they bring into our country is safe, and that they have internationally recognised food safety controls in place throughout the supply chain.

"The strengthened laws also take into consideration the food safety and regulatory systems in exporting countries and introduce stronger traceability requirements.

"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.

"We need to provide this assurance without burdening local importers with unnecessary red tape or consumers with price increases or reduced choice.

"While our food regulatory system is a proven, robust system with processes to manage and respond to detections of unsafe food, we are building on its strengths and addressing its limitations."

The changes were developed in consultation with industry representatives, state and territory food authorities, trading partners and key Commonwealth agencies and departments.

For more information, visit http://www.agriculture.gov.au/imported-food-reform.

Fast facts

  • 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.
  • Along with the legislation, other changes to the Imported Food System include:
    • Increasing the number of foreign government certification arrangements in place to manage the imports of high risk food,
    • Increasing the number of importers with effective food safety management systems in place, voluntarily importing under a Food Import Compliance Agreement (FICA),
    • Working with state and territory food regulators to conduct agreed non-legislative surveys of new and emerging food safety risks,
    • Improving Australian Government communications during a national food safety incident, and
    • Proactive compliance and enforcement activities through better use of imported food data.