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Imported foods must meet Australian standards

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N E W S F E L. E A S

PlE93/15GR 1 February 1993


From today, all imported foods entering Australia will be liable to testing by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) to ensure imported foods meet the same high standards of Australian product

Sweeping changes to Australian food import controls have come about through powers vested in AQIS by the Quarantine Act (1908) and the soon to be proclaimed Imported Foods Control Act (1992).

AQIS officers will randomly select individual shipments and test them according to the requirements of the Australian Food Standards Code.

The expanded program is aimed at ensuring imported foods are safe and that they meet Australian standards, the Minister for Resources, Alan Griffiths, said today.

"Importantly, Australian food producers and manufacturers can now be sure there is no double standard. Imported product will be subjected to the same requirements as domestic product," Mr Griffitps said.

Consumers will benefit in many ways under the new scheme.

"Imported foods will be checked to make sure they are correctly and truthfully labelled, there will be rigorous testing for harmful chemical residues, and declarations of additives, preservatives and colourings will be enforced.

"Foods which do not comply with the Australian Food Standards Code will be brought into compliance or will be denied entry..

"Future shipments from offending suppliers will be automatically detained and held until product has been scientifically analysed and passed as favourable."

The Government is confident the new measures will negate any unfair advantage in the market place," Mr Griffiths said.

Further_ information: Minister's Office: Kristen Barry, Ph: (06) 277 7480 AQIS: Steve Bailey, Ph: (06) 272 5598

Attached: Imported food controls - areas of major concern



Parliament House Phone: (06) 277 7480

Canberra ACT 2600 Fax: (06) 273 4154

Attachment February 1993

Imported' Food Controls Aram of major cones


'There have been numerous reports of breaches of Australian labelling raquircments as sot out in the Australian Food Standards Code and in Trade Practices legislation.

Typical shortcomings include:

no country of erigin Incomplete or misleading trade description • no manufacturer or importer details

no table of ingredients, or incomplete or incorrect ingredient lists • no English translation misleading or non-allowable nutritional or therapeutic claims no use-by dates.

There is much evidence to suggest t that some imported foods, upon arrival, are P P repackaged, recon$tituted or further processed and improperly labelled as 'Product of Australia'. Examples include: i

• juice concentrates with the addition of water

peanuts and other nuts simply repackaged I. nuts and dried fruits used in peanut butter, fruit bars and breakfast cereals failing to indicate imported ingredients •

fIsh used In fish fingers, fish cakes and TV dinners - no ingredient origin statement.

A requireme nt exists for bulk unpackaged fruit, vegetables or fish to maintain its identity at point of sale, but there is evidence that this is not occurring, due largely to a lack of suitable controls.

The new arrangements will assist in dealing with these problems.

Reports from overseas indicated that some fish had decomposed prior to canning, Information confirmed that some product from Thailand had caused problems and, after risk assessment by the National, Food Authority (NFA5, AQIS moved i mmediately to impose point of entry controls.


AQIS has received many reports of non-compliance with Australian standards for food. colourings and other non -approved additives, many of which may be harmful. Other reports 'suggest some food wrappings contain dangerously high 1cvcls of rciccmcnts like lead and chromium.

Listerla to French cheeses

E -

In no d-1992, there were a number of deaths in Franco from Listcricsis, with.suspicion that soft cheeses may have been the cause. This resulted in an unmediate elevation of French cheeses to intensive shipment by shipment clearance by AQIS.

Ligeri in vecuuin-packad and hotticd Mdsels and other fish Rrodncts

Evidence of the presence of L.monocytogenes in these products necessitated their inclusion in the high risk inspection category, on the bassis of advice from the National Food Authority (NFA).

Canned Mushrooms .

Extremely high failure rates of these goods for non-commercial sterility (presence of micro-organisms) resulted in very.strict measures being unposed from mid 1992. This followed a period of suspension of certain Chinese canneries from the Australian market. The concern here is that the inadequate thermal processing causing this problem could well be occurring with other low acid canned -foods.


The Food Standards Code does not provide for the. addition of preservative to these products, but there have been instances where things like benzoic acid and sdrbic acid have bean used.

Food Spfety Certification

Many countries can provide certificates of food safety and certificates of ataalysts. AQIS does not recognise such certificates unless it has undertaken an evaluation of the food. inspect ion and analytical systems upon which the certificates are based. AQIS currently has agxzcmcnts with Not Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Norway,* and is close to

finalising agreements with Canada (fish), China, Malaysia, with others to come this year. Foods which are certifeed remain liable to occasional checks and audits by AQI$.