This Biosecurity Advice informs stakeholders that the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has finalised a biosecurity risk review for the importation of fresh (chilled or frozen) beef and beef products from Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United States and Vanuatu. Importation of fresh beef and beef products from these countries will be permitted subject to Australian biosecurity legislation, favourable competent authority assessments, the application of sanitary measures specified in the Fresh (chilled or frozen) beef and beef products from Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United States and Vanuatu – final review, and negotiation of agreed bilateral health certificates for this trade.
The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has completed a review of biosecurity risks for importing fresh (chilled or frozen) beef and beef products for human consumption from Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United States and Vanuatu following stakeholder consultation on a draft review released on 14 December 2016 (BA 2016/36). Stakeholders requested an extension of the closing date for comments from 13 February 2017. BA 2017/01 extended the date to 15 March 2017. The final review is available on the department’s website.
The department received submissions from the governments of Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United States, and representative organisations of the Australian beef industry, including the Cattle Council of Australia, the Red Meat Advisory Council, the Australian Lot Feeders’ Association and the Australian Meat Industry Council. Submissions related to food safety, biosecurity (human and animal), traceability and other technical issues. These comments have assisted with improving the technical accuracy of the review. However, these improvements did not substantially change the conclusions in the draft review.
The department evaluated all stakeholder submissions and comments and updated the draft policy review accordingly. The department also consulted extensively with the Department of Health and Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) on food safety and human health risks associated with the importation of fresh beef and beef products for human consumption from the applicant countries.
Several stakeholders commented on Salmonella enterica serotype Typhimurium DT104 (DT104). The assessment of the human biosecurity risk posed by DT104 in contaminated fresh beef and beef products imported from the applicant countries was finalised after publishing the draft review. The final review took into account advice from the Department of Health that Australia’s appropriate level of protection (ALOP) is achieved with respect to this pathogen when produced in accordance with or equivalent to relevant Australian standards (e.g. the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code and the Australian Standard for the hygienic production and transportation of meat and meat products for human consumption AS4696:2007). Instead of pre-export testing programs for DT104 and/or other multi-resistant bacteria, the department will require listed establishments in each country to operate Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) based Quality Assurance plans in accordance with or equivalent to relevant Australian standards. The department will also require that the satisfactory operation of these plans is verified on an ongoing basis by a bacteriological testing program that ensures Australia’s ALOP (for food safety and biosecurity controls) is continuing to be met.
Several stakeholders expressed concern about the risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) from countries that have had cases of BSE or currently trade with countries not recognised as having negligible risk of BSE. The Australian government takes into account the World Organisation for Animal Health‘s (OIE) official recognition of country BSE status but also undertakes a separate, additional assessment to ensure Australia’s ALOP is met. Assessment of countries for the risk of BSE in beef and beef products to protect the health of Australian consumers is the responsibility of FSANZ. The biosecurity review undertaken by the department only applies to those countries that have been assessed and assigned a Category 1 or Category 2 BSE risk status by FSANZ (that is, Japan, Category 1 assigned in September 2015; the Netherlands in November 2012; New Zealand in November 2011; the United States in May 2015; and Vanuatu in November 2012).
Several comments by Australian cattle industry peak bodies focused on food safety and beef quality issues. In response, a new section was added to the report, describing animal biosecurity and food safety legislation and policies relating to beef and beef products in Australia, as they impact on Australia’s ALOP. The assumption of compliance with relevant Australian food safety standards (for example the Food Standards Code and the Australian Meat Standard) or their equivalent was an integral component of the risk review. Compliance with these standards will form a significant component of competent authority assessment and approval of establishments for the slaughter and processing of beef and beef products for export to Australia. These food safety issues include microbiological and chemical contamination of beef and beef products and the traceability of beef and beef products to allow accurate identification of the animals from which the beef was derived and their farms of origin, and also allow for effective and efficient national food recall if necessary. Other minor editorial changes have also been made in response to other stakeholder comments.
The meaning of the terms ‘hazard’ (in relation to hazard identification, potential hazards and disease transmission) and of ‘beef carcases and carcase parts’ and ‘beef and beef products’ has been clarified in the final report.
Next steps and implementation
The publication of the final review on biosecurity risks of importing beef and beef products from the five applicant countries forms the first part of the process towards developing import conditions applicable to these countries, including the veterinary health certificate.
The next step in the process to enable market access to Australia for this commodity is for the department to undertake a competent authority assessment of the applicant country taking into account the following criteria, as well as any other relevant information:
- the current animal health status
- the effectiveness of veterinary services and other relevant certifying authorities
- legislative controls over animal health, meat hygiene standards, and biosecurity policies and practices
- the standard of reporting to the OIE of major contagious disease outbreaks
- the effectiveness of veterinary laboratory services, including compliance with relevant international standards
- the effectiveness of systems for control over certification/documentation of products intended for export to Australia.
The applicant country will be required to complete a questionnaire, developed by this department specifically for this purpose and this commodity, which addresses the categories above. In addition, an in-country verification visit may be required. The department acknowledges that current conditions exist for New Zealand and Vanuatu and therefore the process described above will take into account this situation. The current import conditions for fresh beef and beef products from New Zealand and Vanuatu will apply until further notification by the department.
Japan, the Netherlands and the United States were included in the review because they have been assessed by FSANZ as having an acceptable BSE food safety risk status, and had applied to the department for import access for fresh beef and beef products for human consumption.
New Zealand and Vanuatu are included in the review as both are FSANZ assessed countries and have long standing access for fresh beef. The appropriateness of the conditions under which importation occurs has not been reviewed for some time, and as such a review was warranted.
Dr Andrew Cupit