By Alma Argayoso I Consul Commercial
Australia has strict food safety regulations and standards as part of its broader biosecurity policies to protect the country from the many pests and diseases that can be spread by international agricultural trade, as well as ensure that food products entering Australia are safe for human consumption. The Australian government is zealously protective and committed to the safety of Australian food supply and all imported food must meet Australia’s strict biosecurity requirements to be allowed into the country.
As such, Philippine exporters may encounter difficulties in complying with Australia’s import quarantine requirements. Over the past three years, a number of exporters have been found non-compliant with the import requirements resulting to the destruction and/or re-export of the products out of Australia.
On average, the Philippine Embassy in Canberra receives 10-15 failed food notifications per year from Australia’s Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment (DAWE) informing the Philippine government that some food products from the Philippines have failed quarantine inspections conducted under the Australian Government’s Imported Food Inspection Scheme (IFIS).
The reasons for failure include histamine levels, commonly found in dried herring products, that have been detected in excess of the 200 mg/kg level permitted; aflatoxin levels, commonly found in peanuts and peanut-based products, in excess of 0.015 mg/kg level permitted; chemicals such as profenofos detected in jute leaves in excess of the Maximum Residue Limits (MRL) in Australia, as well as compositions such as vitamins, food colourings and additives that are not allowed in Australia.
Philippine manufacturers and exporters may refer to the following information for additional guidance:
1. Food entering Australia is subject to the Imported Food Control Act 1992 and the Imported Food Control Regulations 2019. Under these legislations imported food is inspected and controlled using a risk-based border inspection program, IFIS which is administered by the DAWE.
2. Australia’s food standards are contained within the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code), which is administered by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).
3. Australia monitors compliance to the Code under the IFIS, which classifies food as either a risk food or surveillance food. Testing may be applied under the IFIS and the procedures are published in Tests applied to risk food and Tests applied to surveillance foods
4. Risk food - Risk food is identified by FSANZ as a food that presents a potential medium or high risk to public health
Example: fish and fish products Imported food risk statement for fish and fish products from the families specified and histamine. Of note in the report which manufacturers of dried herring should look into is that:
storage conditions and temperature control during and after capture that supports bacterial growth. The length of time and the temperature in which fish are stored, are extremely influential on the level of bacterial growth and subsequent histamine level in the fish (Lehane and Olley 2000; Baixas-Nogueras et al. 2009; Torido et al. 2012; Visciano et al. 2012; Cheong et al. 2014).
For more information on risk food, testing and sampling refer to Imported Food Notice 07-18 - Food sampling under the Imported Food Inspection Scheme and tests applied to histamine susceptible fish.
5. Surveillance food - imported food that is assessed as not posing a potentially high or medium risk to public health is classified as a surveillance food.
Under the food legislation, five (5) percent of surveillance food is randomly selected for border inspection and analysis to verify compliance with the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code and its safety. The inspection includes a visual check and label assessment. Samples may also be taken for analyses against a range of microbiological and chemical hazards.
A recent failing food email notification sent to the Philippines related to the apple juice drink due to zinc lactate and vitamin A palmitate not permitted in this food. Under Food Standards Code: 1.3.2, a food (or drink) that is fortified and produced by an offshore manufacturer may meet actual or potential population health needs offshore but may not be permitted for consumption by Australian consumers.
6. Food that fails inspection – importer must advise whether the food will be re-exported, destroyed or treated (if applicable such as re-labelling). More information can be accessed on the DAWE website - What happens if my food fails inspection?
7. Failed food reporting - foods that fail border inspection are published in Monthly Failed Food Reports which are available on the DAWE’s website - http://www.agriculture.gov.au/import/goods/food/inspection-compliance/failing-food-reports