Food importers may enter into a Food Import Compliance Agreement, known as a FICA, with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (the department) under the Imported Food Control Act 1992.
Many food importers have documented food management systems for sourcing and importing food. Under a FICA these systems may be recognised, offering an alternative to the routine inspection and testing of food products under the Imported Food Inspection Scheme (IFIS). The FICA frequently asked questions web page provides information about compliance agreements for importing food.
Food products imported under a FICA are not subject to potential delay and costs associated with inspection and testing under the IFIS. Instead, food products imported under a FICA are handled by the importer’s food management system which is audited by the department. The audit frequency is determined by the type of food imported under the FICA and previous audit performance. More information about FICA auditing is available in the FICA audit regime.
All goods imported into Australia, including food imported under a FICA, are subject to Australian biosecurity requirements in accordance with the Biosecurity Act 2015 and its subordinate legislation.
The following table lists some of the importers who are currently operating under a FICA.
Requirements for a FICA
An importer must have a documented food management system that contains specific elements before the department will consider entering into a FICA.
The food safety and compliance system criteria are based on;
- Australian Standard - ISO 22000:2005 (Food safety management systems - requirements for any organization in the food chain),
- Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code - Part 3.2 (Food Safety Requirements), and
- consideration of other food management systems in Australia.
The food safety and compliance system criteria include requirements for manufacturer assurance, food safety assessment, traceability and verification. Further information about the requirements for a FICA can be found in the FICA requirements guide.
FICA application process
A completed FICA application form is required to be submitted, along with an application levy if the importer is not operating under an existing department arrangement. Additional fee for service charges are applied to cover the cost of an assessment of the applicant including a desk audit and an initial site audit to determine suitability to enter into a FICA with the Commonwealth. Further information about charges is available in the department’s charging guidelines.
Fit and proper person assessment for FICA applicants
As part of the FICA application process the department completes a fit and proper person test to determine the suitability of all listed persons in management and control of the FICA.
Guidance to help understand what is meant by ‘fit and proper’ and what is required to meet the fit and proper test is available from the Fit and proper test for Approved Arrangements applicants.
If you are already operating an Approved Arrangement under the Biosecurity Act 2015, for those staff that have met the fit and proper test there is no requirement to complete this again. However, any additional staff that have responsibility for management and control under the FICA will be required to be assessed.
The FICA application form contains a self-assessment checklist. The self-assessment must be completed by linking the relevant section of the importer’s food management system to the corresponding requirement in the FICA document.
On receipt of a completed FICA application form, the department undertakes a check of the importer’s history of compliance by reviewing:
- the importer’s record of compliance under the Imported Food Inspection Scheme (IFIS);
- the importer’s compliance with other department areas such as, Approved Arrangements and Export Registration; and
- the importer’s payment history and any outstanding debt to the Commonwealth.
If the compliance checks are acceptable, the department will conduct a desk audit of the importer’s food management system. The department then conducts an audit at the nominated primary warehouse location to verify that the documented food management system is effectively implemented and satisfactorily addresses the requirements for a FICA.
A FICA is implemented through a compliance agreement with the Commonwealth which upon successful assessment, commences after the signing of the agreement by both parties and payment of the annual levy, if applicable.
FICA importers must notify the department, using the FICA notification form, in the following circumstances:
- detection of noncompliant food or initiation of a food recall
- change of the FICA importer’s representative or senior management
- variation to the importer’s food safety and compliance system
- change to the importer’s FICA warehouse register
- or an insolvency event.
Contact the department
For further information about FICA please contact the department:
FICA Contact Officer
Audit Services Group
Phone: 1800 900 090
Email: Audit Services