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Wednesday, 23 March 1994
Page: 2128

(Question No. 527)

Senator Bell asked the Minister representing the Minister for Primary Industries and Energy, upon notice, on 18 August 1993:

  (1) Are any materials imported into Australia from Europe or eastern bloc countries for the purpose of producing foodstuffs.

  (2) What protocols does Australia have in place in order to clear such materials.

  (3) Have any such materials been rejected for use in Australia; if so, where were they and what was the basis for rejection.

  (4) Are irradiated foodstuffs imported into Australia; if so, what are they and what are the quantities involved.

Senator Collins —The answer to the honourable senator's question is as follows:

  (1) Yes. The question has been taken as referring to materials used in food production, which may be present in the final product in a primary or modified form. Such materials include bulk foods for further processing or packaging, foods used as ingredients in the production of other foods, food additives, processing aids and so on.

  (2) With the proclamation of the Imported Food Control Act 1992 (the Act) all foods (including food additives and processing aids) are liable to inspection as part of the Imported Food Inspection Program (IFIP). The IFIP is jointly run by the

Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) and the National Food Authority (NFA), with the NFA developing food risk assessment directions for the program and AQIS having operational responsibility.

  The Imported Food Inspection Program operates with three classifications. They are:

  (i) Foods which have been risk categorised by the NFA. All consignments of risk categorised food are referred to the IFIP. However, the intensity of inspection depends on the compliance history of overseas suppliers. Reliable suppliers will be inspected less often than those with a poor compliance rate.

  (ii) For a set period—normally six months—certain foods are classified for active surveillance. Foods in this group are selected for inspection at a rate of 10% per country of origin.

  (iii) Random surveillance selects 5% of all other food shipments for inspection.

  Foods which after inspection are found not to comply with the requirements of the Australian Food Standards Code or the Act are deemed to be failing food and must be treated so as to bring them into compliance or to convert them to another use such as petfood, destroyed, or in limited circumstances re-exported.

  (3) Yes, there have been foods and materials used in food production imported from Europe and eastern bloc countries which have been rejected under the Imported Food Inspection Program. Details over the period January to December 1993 are as follows:

Country of Origin Product Entries Reason for rejection

Austria paprika 2 Salmonella detected

Belgium cheese 1 labelling

Bulgaria cheese 2 labelling

pepper 1 Salmonella detected

Denmark biscuits 1 labelling


seafood 4 labelling

France jam 1 labelling

mushrooms 2 heavy metals (cadmium,

lead, mercury)

pepper 1 Salmonella detected

sauces 1 labelling

seaweed 1 cadmium


confectionery 1 labelling

wine 1 labelling

Germany preserved

seafood 2 labelling

cocoa products 1 labelling

ice confection 1 labelling


food 1 labelling

pepper 1 labelling

spirits 1 labelling


confectionery 1 labelling


extracts 1 labelling

wine 2 labelling

Great Britain bakery products 4 labelling


substitute 2 labelling

confectionery 2 labelling

preserved fruit 1 labelling

smoked fish 1 Listeria monocytogenes


tea 2 labelling

Italy bakery products 4 labelling

cheese 1 Listeria monocytogenes


confectionery 5 labelling

fruit &

fruit juice 2 labelling

mushrooms 2 labelling, leaking

pasta 8 labelling (5),

cadmium (3)

sauces 1 labelling

tomato products 1 cadmium

vinegar 2 labelling (1),

sulphur dioxide (1)

mineral water 1 labelling

Netherlands spinach 1 cadmium

Poland bakery products 1 labelling

Portugal bakery products 1 labelling

jams 1 labelling

Sweden ice cream mix 1 labelling

sauce 1 labelling

Switzerland green tea 1 labelling

pasta 1 labelling

vegetables 1 cadmium

peanuts 1 labelling

Yugoslavia bakery products 1 labelling

spirits 1 labelling

wine 1 labelling

  (4) While a moratorium on irradiated food makes it currently illegal to sell irradiated food in Australia, the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories (AGAL) advise that methods for the routine detection of irradiated food do not exist, although there are techniques involving thermoluminescence, electron spin resonance and gas chromatography which show promise. AGAL is presently liaising with a number of international institutions on further developments in the techniques showing promise.