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Coordinate and monitor

Food incidents

FSANZ coordinates the Bi-National Food Safety Network, a mechanism for national
coordination, communication and early information sharing on food incidents between
government agencies.

The network includes all Australian state and territory food regulatory agencies, the Australian
Government Department of Health, the Australian Government Department of Agriculture,
Water and the Environment, and the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries.

During 2019–20, 13 issues were referred to the network including Salmonella Weltevreden linked
to frozen meals manufactured in Victoria and Listeria monocytogenes in enoki mushrooms from
South Korea. FSANZ also shared information to the network on food safety and COVID-19.

Food recalls

There were 99 food recalls coordinated by FSANZ from 1 July 2019 – 30 June 2020 (Figure 1). The recalls were mainly due to undeclared allergens and microbial contamination (Figure 2).

Figure 3: Number of recalls by month (1 July 2019 - 30 June 2020)  Number of recalls by month (1 July 2019 - 30 June 2020)

Figure 4: Reason for recalls (1 July 2019 - 30 June 2020)  Reason for recalls (1 July 2019 - 30 June 2020)

Undeclared allergen recall statistics

There were 32 undeclared allergen recalls in 2019, down from 46 in 2018. In the last three years, customer complaints were the most common method of detecting the need to recall food due to allergens, followed by routine testing by the company and then routine government testing.

We continue to collect and publish undeclared allergen data including on root cause, problem detection and corrective actions which is obtained through post recall reporting. Packaging errors are the leading cause of undeclared allergen recalls. Unknown causes can be due to the food business not being able to determine the root cause or that we did not receive any post recall information from the business following their recall.

Updated food recall system

In November 2019, we completed an important update to our Food Recall System (FRS). The work included the migration of 30 years of data, new and enhanced reporting capabilities and streamlining of procedures to match the current standard operating procedures. The update will assist FSANZ staff to coordinate food recalls and reduce the likelihood of errors in reporting and process.

International Food Safety Network

We are Australia’s emergency contact point for the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN), a global network under the World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization. As the emergency contact point we are responsible for reporting food safety events of potential international significance to the INFOSAN Secretariat. We also share information from the INFOSAN Secretariat to the Bi-National Food Safety Network.

In 2019–20 we reported 31 food safety events to INFOSAN including food recalls in Australia where the product has been imported or where a food product manufactured in Australia has been exported. Recalls reported to INFOSAN included spring roll pastries recalled due to undeclared milk, multiple recalls of pesto products due to the presence of undeclared peanuts, and a recall of apple juices due to high levels of patulin.

We are also a contact point for the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF). RASFF is a tool to exchange information between EU Member States on serious risks associated with food or feed that has been imported into Australia.

In 2019–20 we reported 18 food safety events to states and territories following RASFF notifications. These notifications included border rejections and unauthorised substances, undeclared allergen detections and biotoxin, chemical and microbial contaminations.

Incident preparedness intentional tampering project

Following the strawberry tampering incident10, the Minister for Health asked FSANZ to investigate whether there were supply chain weaknesses, whether there are actions we can take to assist the police and whether there are systemic changes which are required.

In response we undertook a joint debrief with food regulatory agencies, police and industry to reflect on the incident and confirm what changes are required to address future events. The attendees agreed that systemic improvements are needed to incident preparedness to deal with instances of intentional/criminal interference in the Australia food supply.

In February 2020 we commenced project work based on the recommendations from the joint debrief meeting. We are currently updating the National Food Incident Response Protocol and supporting incident response documentation. Further work will involve developing guidance material for food defence and strengthening relationships and communication between agencies. Following this work, we will convene a face-to-face exercise with food regulators, police and industry to test the updated response system. This is expected to take place in early 2021 subject to the state of COVID-19 restrictions.

Monitoring and surveillance

Analysis of nutrients in foods

We commissioned the laboratory analysis of 44 foods to strengthen the quality and robustness of our nutrient food composition data holdings. The analyses focussed on foods for which we hold no data, or the data we do hold is out-dated and may no longer reflect the products available for consumption.

Australian Total Diet Study

FSANZ’s Australian Total Diet Study (ATDS) is the most comprehensive ongoing monitoring survey of the Australian food supply. It measures the levels of pesticides, metal contaminants and other substances in a broad range of Australian foods and beverages. These data are used to estimate dietary exposure for the Australian population and assess public health and safety risks. Information from the ATDS helps us ensure the continued safety of the food supply through our role developing and maintaining food standards.

The 26th ATDS, focusing on dioxins is nearing completion with a report expected to be published in early 2021.

On request from the Food Regulation Standing Committee, FSANZ has fast tracked the 27th ATDS which is investigating per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS). Food sampling was completed in April 2020 and a report is expected to be published in mid-2021.

10 https://www.foodstandards.gov.au/publications/Pages/Strawberry-tampering-incident.aspx