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Chapter 2 - Coordinate and monitor: Coordinate national response, conduct surveillance and monitoring

​On this page: National response | Monitoring and surveillance

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National response

Food incidents     

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

The network includes all Australian state and territory food enforcement agencies, the Australian Government Department of Health, the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources and the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries. In 2017–18 ten issues were referred to the network, including the multi-jurisdictional outbreak investigations of listeriosis linked to rockmelons and hepatitis A virus linked to frozen pomegranate arils.

In May 2018 FSANZ (together with Dairy Australia) organised a government/ industry exercise, Exercise IBIS (Identifying Better Information Sharing) for government and industry members of the national Food Incident Forum. The objectives of this exercise were to:

  • better understand roles, responsibilities and constraints of government and industry processes
  • identify opportunities for using and sharing industry and government intelligence
  • understand potential food supply and consumer implications of responses to food incidents.

The outcomes from this exercise will be used to strengthen and expand information sharing opportunities between government and industry.

Food recalls

We coordinated 81 food recalls from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018 (Figure 1). The recalls were mainly due to undeclared allergens (Figure 2).

Figure 1: Number of recalls by month (1 July 2017–30 June 2018)

Figure 1: Number of recalls by month (1 July 2017–30 June 2018) chart

Figure 2: Reason for recalls

Figure 2: Reason for recalls chart

Since mid-2016, FSANZ has added new questions to the post recall report asking food businesses what caused the issue to occur. We have reviewed allergenrelated recalls and identified four broad categories of how problems occur:

  • lack of skills and knowledge of labelling requirements
  • supplier verification issues (e.g. raw ingredient contained allergen but this information was not passed on to the manufacturer)
  • packaging errors
  • accidental cross-contamination either of a raw ingredient, or during final production process.

These problems were identified via consumer complaints, company and government testing and in-house reviews. The corrective action taken by the business for these issues included education and training for staff, amended processes and procedures and amending product packaging. While FSANZ is not a regulator (this is the responsibility of jurisdictions) we have undertaken communication activities to promote awareness of the need to declare allergens on the label, particularly to small and medium sized businesses. Details of these activities are on page 53.

INFOSAN

FSANZ is Australia’s emergency contact point for the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN), a global network under the World Health Organization/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.

In 2017–18 FSANZ reported two food safety events to INFOSAN relating to listeriosis linked to rockmelons and hepatitis A virus linked to frozen pomegranate arils.

Food safety culture

Food safety culture (an important part of effective food safety management) is a concept that is attracting significant international and domestic consideration.

In 2017–18 FSANZ led several activities to promote and improve food safety culture across the food regulatory system and food industries. Key activities were:

  • running three CEO forums with leaders from the food regulatory system, the fresh produce industry and the food service industry, to outline national initiatives and issues on food safety and discuss the role of food safety culture and organisational culture from a CEO’s perspective
  • publishing two newsletters on food safety culture with articles contributed from food companies and food regulators including case studies on building and enhancing food safety culture.

The food safety culture newsletter and other resources are available on our website.

Monitoring and surveillance

Australian Total Diet Study

FSANZ’s Australian Total Diet Study (ATDS) is the most comprehensive ongoing monitoring survey of the Australian food supply, which investigates Australian consumers’ dietary exposure to agricultural and veterinary chemicals, metal contaminants and other substances. The ATDS provides a scientific evidence base to allow FSANZ to assess and monitor the safety of the Australian food supply and ensure the continued effectiveness of food regulatory measures. The 25th ATDS, which investigated agricultural and veterinary chemicals and various metal contaminants, is due for publication in late 2018. The 26th ATDS focuses on persistent organic pollutants, including dioxins, dioxin-like compounds and nondioxin like polychlorinated biphenyls. The sampling and analytical component of the survey results is expected to be completed in mid-2018.

Survey of plasticisers in Australian foods

In February 2018 FSANZ published a survey of plasticisers to determine levels of chemicals that may migrate from food packaging into food. The results indicated that levels of plasticisers analysed in Australian foods are generally low, with no public health and safety concerns identified. These findings formed part of the evidence base for the packaging proposal P1034- Chemical Migration from Packaging into Food.

Assessment of trans-fatty acids in imported oils

In 2015, the Australia New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation asked us to undertake an assessment of trans-fatty acids in imported oils. The survey determined that total imports of oils into Australia and New Zealand have declined substantially in recent years. Trans-fatty acid levels in both retail and commercial imported oil products are consistent with previous analytical survey results. The final assessment report was published on the FSANZ website in November 2017.

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