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Costs of food poisoning cannot be underestimated.

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Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Aged Care




Sunday 14 February 1999


“The recent settlement of a major class action by some Brisbane school students and teachers against a hotel after a food poisoning outbreak highlights the need for uniform national Food Safety Standards,” Senator the Hon Grant Tambling, the Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Aged Care said today.


“Food safety is a serious business,” Senator Tambling said. “When systems break down, the health costs to consumers and economic costs to industry can be significant.


“The economic costs to business are particularly devastating when class actions are made against food businesses. This is not to mention any loss of business that may result.”


“The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports food borne illness is on the rise in developed countries as a result of new and emerging pathogenic bacteria, and the community’s growing demand for pre-prepared food and uncooked foods. In Australia the current reality is that on any one day there are 5,700 to 8,600 new cases of food poisoning,” Senator Tambling said.


“However, on an international scale, Australia does enjoy a very good reputation for food quality - a reputation we need to be vigilant in maintaining, particularly in the lead-up to the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.” Senator Tambling said.


“We already know eighty per cent of food poisoning cases in Australia occur from deficiencies in food handling outside the home."


The Australia New Zealand Food Authority estimates that there are 2.1 to 3.5 million cases of food borne illness every year.


The total cost burden of food borne illness in Australia is estimated to be in the vicinity of $4 and $7 billion every year.


“Concerted action is needed by governments and those responsible for food preparation to turn these figures around.


“I am pleased to say that all state governments and the Commonwealth are acting in cooperation as a matter of priority to introduce uniform Food Safety Standards. In December last year the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Council (ANZFSC), which I chair, agreed to support the direction of the new Food Safety Standards to assist food handlers prevent food related illness.” Senator Tambling said.


“The majority of food borne illnesses are preventable, and to this end, the proposed new Food Safety Standards will assist food handlers through a set of simple, sensible steps to prevent food borne illness.


“I am hoping the states and Commonwealth will be in a position to finalise agreement on the new Food Safety Standards by mid-1999.


“Fortunately, many food businesses appreciate the importance of these reforms and have already taken the initiative of having robust food safety systems in place,” Senator Tambling said.


“People shouldn’t dismiss food-borne illness as just another stomach upset - apart from the unpleasant short-term effects, there is increasing evidence that food poisoning can lead to a range of chronic conditions, including reactive arthritis and Guillian-Barre syndrome.”


For more information Peter McMahon, Senator Tambling’s office 0419 691 443 or (02) 6277 3436


Lydia Buchtmann, ANZFA 0411 268 525 or (02) 6271 2620