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Increased safety checks for Chinese food impo -

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LISA MILLAR: The Federal Government has allocated an additional $100,000 to step up testing of
Chinese food imports, at the same time as its assuring Australian consumers that they shouldn't
panic over the contamination scare.

In the past couple of weeks, food safety authorities here have been checking if any contaminated
milk products were in Australian shops.

At first, they looked for infant formula, then for products which could contain small quantities of
Chinese milk, including lollies.

Yesterday, the chocolate giant Cadbury recalled one of its Chinese-made products, prompting some
consumers to question whether asking importers to certify their own products is an adequate
response to the health scare.

It's one of the questions The World Today's Ashley Hall put to the Parliamentary Secretary
responsible, Senator Jan McLucas.

JAN MCLUCAS: Look I understand the concern for consumers, but we do have to keep this in
perspective, this is not a terrible public health risk at the moment, you'd have to eat an enormous
amount of these products to affect your health. But in saying that I still do understand the
concern and to be frank I wouldn't be eating any of it myself.

Can I also say that the Government has allocated funding to increase surveillance and testing at
the point of importation of a range of products from China that may contain dairy product. This has
begun in the last couple of days.

ASHLEY HALL: I understand that most imported food is tested at a rate of about five per cent per
consignment, what would this extended testing take that level to?

JAN MCLUCAS: I can't answer the question in terms of a percentage, but food that is categorised as
risky is, all of it is tested, other food is categorised as food that is, that does not pose a risk
and you're right five per cent of all consignments of food coming into Australia from all countries
are referred for inspection.

Now if any non-compliance is found, as we have in this circumstance, that rate increases.

ASHLEY HALL: The other matter that's been concerning for some people is the amount of
self-regulation that goes on, that companies are asked to identify for themselves whether or not
their products are contaminated. Are you happy with that situation?

JAN MCLUCAS: Of course companies are testing their own products, it's in their interest and in
terms of protecting their brand name, that they would be acting very pro-actively to ensure the
products that they are selling under their label do not contain this product.

ASHLEY HALL: Some of the companies we've spoken to however, the extent of their testing involves
ringing their supplier to make sure that they can certify that the milk or the other products are
safe. How can we be sure that these companies are getting accurate information and aren't being
lied to themselves?

JAN MCLUCAS: Well to be frank that is an issue for the company, if that's the level of track back
that they're doing, and they're not comfortable with it then they may need to take further steps,
but it's...

ASHLEY HALL: But are you comfortable with it?

JAN MCLUCAS: Well that is being done on top of the work that we are doing, systematically going
through a long list of products to ensure that products are not contaminated; so it's almost like a
bonus.

ASHLEY HALL: The concern that's been raised to us is that in many circumstances, contaminants won't
be found in imported foods until somebody gets sick.

JAN MCLUCAS: I don't necessarily agree with that, we are going through a systematic list of
potential products that may have contaminants and we have worked from the highest risk potential
foods to those that do pose a lower risk to ascertain whether or not they do contain any melamine.

ASHLEY HALL: Leaving aside the question of melamine in milk though, other contaminants in other
food products, if we're not already alerted to the fact that they may be there and that we should
be on the lookout for them, and they're only being tested at around five per cent per consignment,
what's the chance that we'll pick that contaminant up before someone gets sick?

JAN MCLUCAS: Australia has strong and robust food safety system in operation, I really want to tell
Australians that they should not be panicking. We have a good quality of food safety system in our
country and we are working through this terrible incident in China to ensure that the health and
safety of Australians is being protected.

LISA MILLAR: That's Senator Jan McLucas, the Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Ageing,
speaking with Ashley Hall.