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Food incidents

What is a food incident?

A food incident is a situation within the food supply chain where there is a possible or confirmed risk associated with the consumption of a food. A food incident can also relate to an issue that could, or is expected to, impact on multiple government jurisdictions.

A food incident may be identified from various sources, for example food recalls, a multi-jurisdictional outbreak investigation or intelligence from industry, local/state government or international counterparts.

How do governments respond to food incidents?

When there is a food incident, governments work together to coordinate their response through the Bi-National Food Safety Network. This network is made up of Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), the Department of Health, the Department of Agriculture and the food enforcement agencies of all Australian states and territories and New Zealand.

FSANZ's role in this network is to coordinate activities, collate and share information and, in many cases, develop public statements. Each enforcement agency determines what needs to be done in their jurisdiction and responds according to their food law, response plans and protocols. By working together, consistent responses can be achieved.

The network provides a process for early communication and information sharing. When a national response is needed, the National Food Incident Response Protocol is triggered. This protocol provides an agreed process for a timely, consistent and coordinated response to national food incidents. FSANZ has several key coordination roles under this arrangement including National Food Incident Coordinator, Risk Assessment Coordinator and Communications Controller.

Whenever food products need to be removed from the supply chain, FSANZ coordinates recalls in consultation with the food business and state/territory governments. For more information, visit our food recalls webpages.

Working with food businesses

It is vital that government and food businesses work together during a food incident. Tracing a food product back to its source can be complicated and during serious food incidents, every second counts. Both government and food businesses need to be alerted to an issue early, so they can act quickly to keep the confidence of consumers and trading partners, and to minimise flow-on impacts. FSANZ works closely with food businesses to ensure key representatives, including retailers, can be quickly notified if there is a food incident.

What can food businesses do to be prepared?

One of the main ways businesses can be prepared to deal with a food incident is to have a recall plan that ensures they can respond to quickly if an incident occurs.

FSANZ has developed a simple recall plan template to help food businesses develop their own.

For more information, visit our food recalls webpages or see the Food Industry Recall Protocol.

Recent food incidents

More information

Page last updated 20 December 2023