Does every country need to be assessed?
Yes. Every country interested in exporting beef or beef products to Australia needs to be assessed.
Beef and beef products from countries that have not been assigned a favorable BSE risk status by FSANZ are considered to pose an undetermined level of risk and will be refused entry to Australia. The exception to this is when countries export only beef that is sourced from a third country and the third country is eligible to export beef or beef products to Australia, for example, New Zealand.
How long will an assessment take?
The length of time depends on the quality and completeness of information supplied by the applicant country, and whether an in-country inspection is required. It is anticipated that FSANZ will take an average of 20 weeks to prepare a draft assessment report based on the information provided in the application.
What will be the outcomes of the assessment?
The FSANZ assessment will determine a country's BSE risk status. Countries categorised as either Category 1 or Category 2 will be eligible to export beef or beef products to Australia subject to meeting relevant import certification requirements. Countries not assigned Category 1 or Category 2 status will be ineligible to export beef and beef products to Australia.
What factors are assessed in the FSANZ assessment?
The FSANZ assessment examines the entire beef production system of the applicant country and focuses on a set of key factors associated with BSE risk. The factors include:
- country of origin and control measures placed on the importation of meat and bone meal, greaves and other bovine-derived products
- country of origin and control measures placed on the importation of live cattle
- country of origin and control measures placed on the importation of beef or beef products for human consumption
- slaughterhouse practices and procedures for cattle
- rendering and disposal practices for abattoir waste
- effectiveness of ruminant feed ban controls
- identification and traceability systems for cattle and beef products.
The country's BSE surveillance and monitoring program will also be assessed as well as the capacity of its veterinary services to diagnose and investigate BSE cases.
What is examined in an in-country inspection visit?
An in-country inspection is conducted by Australian Government officials with relevant technical expertise in food safety and animal health risk assessment and controls. The purpose of an in-country inspection is to verify information provided by the applicant country and to gain further knowledge about the effectiveness of the control measures.
The in-country inspection will involve observing BSE control measures implemented at various establishments across the beef production chain. The inspection will examine:
- the systems implemented to prevent the introduction and spread of BSE in the cattle population and to prevent the BSE agent entering the human food or animal feed chains in the applicant country
- the procedures and processes implemented to prevent beef or beef products from becoming contaminated by the BSE agent during animal slaughter and processing
- relevant matters of BSE prevention, investigation and control.
Will the assigned country BSE risk category be made available to the public?
Yes. The final BSE risk category of countries categorised as either Category 1 or Category 2 will be published on the FSANZ website along with the full report of the BSE food safety assessment.
Will there be reviews?
Yes, countries that have been assigned Category 1 or Category 2 status will be reviewed on an ongoing basis. The applicant countries will be required to submit surveillance results and information on feed controls as well as any changes to the epidemiological situation for the preceding calendar year by 31 January of each year for review by the Committee. Countries may lose their BSE risk status assigned previously by FSANZ, and their eligibility to export beef and/or beef products to Australia, if the above mentioned information is not provided to the Committee.
An applicant country may also request a review of the assessment outcome in a previous BSE food safety assessment conducted by FSANZ. The review may comprise a number of actions including: assessment of additional data provided, consideration of a change made by the OIE to the country's BSE risk status, or an in-country inspection visit conducted by Australian officials. FSANZ may also initiate a review of a country's BSE status previously assigned if there is an indication that the BSE risk status of the country may have changed significantly.
Can an applicant country withdraw its application?
Yes, an applicant country may withdraw its application at any time by writing to the Committee. The country will be ineligible to export beef or beef products derived from its cattle population to Australia after its application is withdrawn.
Countries assigned either Category 1 or Category 2 status by FSANZ will be eligible to export beef products to Australia. To be eligible to export fresh (chilled or frozen) beef to Australia, the applicant country must also obtain a satisfactory outcome from the IRA conducted by the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment making a market access request to the department.
Beef exporters of the source countries and their liaison offices in Australia should approach the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment on various administrative matters concerning the export. This includes application for an import permit, and provision of appropriate information to certify that the beef or beef products to be exported to Australia are sourced from eligible countries. Comprehensive information on matters associated with the export of beef or beef products to Australia is available from the Imported Food Notice published by the department.
Products exempted from the BSE requirement
The following bovine products for human consumption are exempt from the requirement for a country BSE food safety assessment:
- collagen from bovine skins and hides (including sausage casings produced from this type of collagen)
- a minor ingredient of a processed product, where that ingredient comprises bovine fat and/or bovine tallow at no more than 300 g/kg of the food
- gelatine sourced from bovine skins and hides
- dairy products sourced from bovines.
These products can be sourced from any country and exported to Australia subject to import permit requirements.