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Communication―A broad communication capacity

COVID-19 and food safety

In response to media reports and requests from food business regarding the risk of COVID-19 transmission through food, we established a dedicated web presence on COVID-19 and food safety for consumers and food businesses.

This included advice on:

  • COVID-19 and transition through food and food packaging
  • general health and hygiene requirements
  • border restrictions
  • take-away, donated and food delivery services
  • what to do if staff have symptoms or test positive for COVID-19
  • minimising the impact of COVID-19 on your workplace
  • staying up-to-date with government restrictions and operation requirements
  • regulatory compliance and global supply issues.

Website

Our website attracted over 2.2 million visits in 2019–20. Each year parts of our website are reviewed for currency and potential improvements. We also publish new content every year including information about food incidents and recalls, responses to issues and updated scientific information. This year our new content included information about: caffeine, COVID-19, cell based meat and a range of food recalls.

Social media

Our social media channels are an important way we engage with our stakeholders on our work program and raise awareness about food and food safety and respond quickly to misinformation or food related concerns in the media.

Our total audience increased by over 5,300 in 2019–20, across Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn at over 56,400 followers.

During January bushfire crisis in Australia, we developed a series of social media posts and refreshed web content12 on food safety in a bushfire. The response attracted significant attention from our followers and the media with 440 shares, over 5,000 engagements with the posts and a reach of 100,000. We also spoke with ABC Radio South Coast and provided tips for communities affected by the bushfires on how to keep food safe with ongoing power outages.

Earlier this year we used our social media channels to respond to misinformation in the media that COVID-19 can be transmitted through food and that fruit and vegetables should be washed with sanitisers before consuming.

These posts sought to assure consumers that COVID-19 is unlikely to be transmitted through food and that washing fruit and vegetables with sanitiser could in itself be a health risk.

We continue to use social media to provide updates to consumers and food businesses on new advice and information on COVID-19.

Publications

FSANZ has a number of popular publications. These include our Listeria brochure,
Allergen Poster and Safe Food Australia publication. This year we developed a number of
new publications online including a refreshed listeria brochure, the 2019 Report on Emerging
Issues, a Report on pure and highly concentrated caffeine food products, a Follow-up report to
government on the strawberry tampering incident debrief and the Regulatory Science Strategy
2019–23.13

Information and Communication Technology

FSANZ’s ICT capabilities were well tested during 2019–20 and proved to be capable and reliable. During the year the ICT team managed and improved the existing infrastructure, security and software capabilities, developed new proficiencies by enhancing and maintaining our custom software and improved on Governance and Strategy. We have improved our security posture in line with the Top 4 mitigation strategies14 and reduced some overall risks associated with ICT.

During the year we have finalised an ICT strategy for the next three years. This strategy focuses on the digital platforms that will support our agency’s modernisation agenda, keep our data secure, enhance our analytic capability, and increase our proficiency. It also covers the processes that underpin our use of these platforms, and, most importantly, the people who use both the processes and the platforms to ultimately deliver FSANZ objectives.

This strategy incorporates an agile implementation plan. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown just how quickly the world can change and it is clear we need to be ready for unknowns. This strategy outlines many possible activities while anticipating that resources, priorities, and the evolving environment will all need to be considered in determining how we will deliver its goals. Choosing which activities we undertake will evolve over time and we will continue to listen to our stakeholders, partners, and the wider government to understand what future we want to make together.

The external facing infrastructure was upgraded to SharePoint 2019 as well as the SQL server which was upgraded to version 2019. Our custom Harvest Dietary modelling application was also enhanced and upgraded to SharePoint 2019. This allows us to leverage the latest technologies. Upgrades and enhancements were completed on various FSANZ applications which include: Public Website, Food Recall System and Harvest (dietary modelling). These upgrades and enhancements have seen significant improvements in usability, productivity and performance which has allowed FSANZ to streamline standard operating procedures even further.

ICT has also created an educational environment for staff to learn and upskill in other areas of the FSANZ business such as food recalls and stakeholder management.

COVID-19 and transition to work from home arrangements

We improved our remote connection capabilities this year by replacing RSA tokens with DUO mobile phone authentication. This along with mobile devices and an appropriate backend infrastructure meant that the transition of staff to work from home arrangements was seamless, secure and successfully completed. Now that the systems have been proven it will be an easy transition to any future agile working state.

Webex videoconferencing was successfully implemented and widely adopted by staff as a way to collaborate and engage with peers and external stakeholders.

Information and records management

FSANZ again supported the Governments Digital Continuity 2020 Policy showing continued improvement in the 2019 Check-Up Digital survey of digital information management capability. We introduced a new Records Management policy and continued to improve our records management in line with this policy. We continue to develop electronic forms and all new systems and processes are designed to work in line with our Information Management principles.

12 https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/safety/safetyduringemergency/Pages/default.aspx

13 https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/publications/RegulatoryScienceStrategy201923/Pages/default.aspx

14 https://www.cyber.gov.au/acsc/view-all-content/publications/strategies-mitigate-cyber-security-incidents