Australia plans to review food safety standards

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Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is planning to review food safety standards.

FSANZ is reviewing two chapters of the Food Standards Code to ensure a “consistent and up-to-date” approach to food safety management in Australia.

The agency is accepting comments on the proposed scope and approach to the review through the end of this month. There will be an opportunity to provide feedback on specific issues related to each area of work during the proposal processes.

Chapter 3 contains food safety standards for businesses and Chapter 4 has primary production and processing standards for primary producers.

The review will focus on requirements for food safety management in the food service and retail sectors.

It will also look at potential development of a primary production and processing standard for high-risk horticulture products to introduce requirements to manage on-farm food safety standards, including requirements for traceability.

In April 2017, the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation identified three priority areas for 2017-2021 to strengthen the food regulation system. One of these was to reduce foodborne illness, particularly related to Campylobacter and Salmonella, with a nationally consistent approach. Foodborne illness is managed locally by state and territorial governments. Food poisoning affects an estimated 4.1 million Australians each year.

The forum asked FSANZ to reassess regulatory and non-regulatory measures to address food safety in high-risk horticulture products such as ready-to-eat, minimally processed fruits and vegetables; fresh leafy green vegetables; melons; berries; and sprouts.

Since 2014, foodborne illness outbreaks because of Hepatitis A, Salmonella and Listeria have been associated with berries, packaged lettuces, mung bean sprouts, rockmelons (cantaloupe) and pomegranate arils.

The 2018 outbreak of Listeria associated with rockmelons resulted in 22 cases including at least seven deaths across four states. It temporarily closed an export market and impacted the domestic market with losses to growers estimated to be $15 million (U.S. $10.5 million).

The agency will look at requests from the forum including requirements for businesses to have a food safety supervisor; evidence to demonstrate key activities or control processes are being managed; and mandatory training for all food handlers.

Four jurisdictions have implemented requirements for food safety supervisors. However, mandatory training of all food handlers has not been applied in any of them.

Food safety standards have not been reviewed since development in 2000. Modernization of Chapters 1 and 2 of the code went into effect in March 2016.

Mark Booth, chief executive officer of FSANZ, said the agency will consider new technologies created since the original standards were developed.

“I encourage all stakeholders to comment on the proposed scope and approach of the review by May 31,” Booth said. “We are expecting to prepare a number of proposals to progress this work and there will be consultation opportunities during the proposal process.”

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