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Review of prawns and prawn products from all countries for human consumption

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has commenced a review of the biosecurity risks of, and import conditions for, prawns and prawn products into Australia.

There are three principal steps in the process. The review is currently at step 2.

  1. The department announced the commencement of the review via the release of Biosecurity Advice 2017-08 on 16 May 2017.
  2. The department is preparing a draft report which will be released for a 60-day stakeholder comment period. The draft report will outline the identified biosecurity risks and propose risk management measures to achieve Australia’s appropriate level of protection (ALOP). It is anticipated that the draft report will be available for comment in 2019.
  3. The department will consider stakeholder comments and publish a final report which will mark the end of the review process.

Stakeholder consultation

The department has advised stakeholders, including members of the prawn industry, of the formal commencement of this review. The department will consult with stakeholders throughout the process of this review, including when the draft report is released. Stakeholders will also be invited to make submissions on the draft report for consideration by the department.

For more information, stakeholders can email Animal Biosecurity or register as a stakeholder to be kept informed about this and other risk reviews of interest.

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Rationale for the review

Following the outbreak of white spot syndrome virus in the Logan River, Queensland in December 2016 and the subsequent suspension of imports of some prawns and prawn products, the department reviewed the import conditions as they related to the biosecurity risk of white spot syndrome virus in imported prawns and prawn products. In July 2017, the department introduced enhanced import conditions to allow for safe trade in prawns and prawn products.

The review of prawns and prawn products from all countries for human consumption that commenced on 16 May 2017 will consider all biosecurity risks associated with prawns and prawn products, not just those associated with white spot syndrome virus.

If the biosecurity risks for these products change during the review period, the department may amend the import conditions to ensure that biosecurity risk meets Australia’s appropriate level of protection (ALOP).

Review of prawn biosecurity import requirements

Import conditions for prawns and prawn products were established by the Final generic import risk analysis report for prawns and prawn products 2009 (Prawn IRA) and further enhanced over time. For current import conditions, refer to the Australian Biosecurity Import Conditions website (BICON).

Because relevant risk management measures have already been established this review is being undertaken as a non-regulated risk review of existing conditions. This is consistent with the Biosecurity Act 2015 and Biosecurity Import Risk Analysis Guidelines 2016.

The analysis considers the risks of pests and diseases associated with the proposed import along with any sanitary and phytosanitary measures that could address these risks.

The enhanced import conditions introduced at the end of the trade suspension in July 2017 will remain in place pending the outcomes of the review of the biosecurity risks of, and import conditions for, prawns and products. During this time, if the biosecurity risks for these products change, the department may amend the relevant import conditions.

Protecting Australia from exotic pests and diseases

Australia's biosecurity system protects our unique environment and agricultural sector and supports our reputation as a safe and reliable trading nation. This has significant economic, environmental and community benefits for all Australians.

The term ‘biosecurity risk’ is used to describe the combination of the likelihood and the consequences of a pest or disease of biosecurity concern entering, establishing and spreading in Australia.

The department undertakes comprehensive risk analyses of potential biosecurity risks associated with the import of animals, plants or other goods into Australia and recommends risk management options to address these risks. Any recommended measures will reflect Australia’s overall approach to the management of biosecurity risk.

Zero risk is impossible; it would mean no tourists, no international travel and no imports of any commodities. Australia invests heavily in biosecurity to ensure risks are managed to the lowest possible level.

Australia exports almost two thirds of its agricultural produce. The future of our agriculture and food industries, including their capacity to contribute to growth and jobs, depends on Australia’s capacity to maintain a good plant and animal health status.

Australia accepts imports only when we are confident the risks of pests and diseases can be managed to achieve the appropriate level of protection (ALOP) for Australia.

Considerations during a review of biosecurity import requirements

International obligations

All World Trade Organization (WTO) members are signatories to the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the SPS Agreement), under which they have both rights and obligations.

The basic obligations of the SPS Agreement are that SPS measures must:

  • be based on a risk assessment appropriate to the circumstances or drawn from standards developed by the World Organization for Animal Health and the International Plant Protection Convention
  • only be applied to the extent necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health
  • be based on science
  • not arbitrarily or unjustifiably discriminate between WTO members, or be a disguised restriction on trade.

Under the SPS Agreement, each WTO Member is entitled to maintain a level of protection it considers appropriate to protect human, animal or plant life or health within its territory – in other words, its ALOP.

Appropriate level of protection

The ALOP for Australia is defined in the Biosecurity Act 2015 as: a high level of sanitary and phytosanitary protection aimed at reducing biosecurity risks to very low, but not to zero.

This definition has been reached with the agreement of all state and territory governments and recognises that a zero risk stance is impractical because this would mean Australia would have no tourists, no international travel and no imports.

The ALOP is a broad objective, and risk management measures are established to achieve that objective.

Meeting Australia’s food laws

All food sold in Australia must satisfy Australia’s food laws. Australian law requires that all food, including imported fresh fruit, meets the standards set out in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, adheres to the food laws of each state and territory, and meets the requirements of the Imported Food Control Act 1992.

New scientific information

The department bases its risk analyses on available information and existing science. New scientific information can be provided to the department at any time, including after a risk analysis has been completed. The department will consider the information provided and may amend the import conditions if deemed necessary to maintain Australia’s ALOP.