Raw milk cheese: eligibility of countries to export to Australia

​Countries wanting to export raw milk cheese to Australia can apply for assessment of whether their country’s raw milk cheese production system is equivalent to the system in Australia. A government certification arrangement will be established to facilitate trade if the country meets Australia’s biosecurity requirements, and demonstrates equivalence and compliance with applicable standards.

Countries eligible to export raw milk cheese to Australia are those that:

  • are approved by the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources as Foot-and-Mouth Disease free
  • have animal health controls in place that ensure milk is only sourced from healthy animals, which can be individually identified
  • only source milk from animals belonging to herds that are officially free from Brucella spp. and Mycobacterium bovis in accordance with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) Terrestrial Animal Health Code
  • have controls in place for the safe milking, transport and processing of milk for raw milk cheese, including standards for milking hygiene, time and temperature control and control measures for the processing of raw milk cheese that effectively control pathogenic microorganisms
  • have government controls in place to ensure raw milk cheese is not eligible for export to Australia unless
    • the milk used in the raw milk cheese is monitored to ensure its safety and suitability
    • the level of pathogenic microorganisms in a raw milk cheese do not exceed the level of pathogenic microorganisms in the milk from which the product was made
    • the raw milk cheese does not support the growth of pathogenic microorganisms
  • have a government authority that:
    • verifies and enforces compliance with national standards,  government controls and export conditions for raw milk cheese;
    • is able to supply valid government certificates attesting to compliance with animal health, primary production, transport and processing controls for raw milk cheese
    • is subject to independent audits verifying that the government authority enforces compliance with controls for raw milk cheese.

Application for assessment to export raw milk cheese to Australia

The exporting country can advise of its intention to export raw milk cheese to Australia and request an assessment by contacting:

Director, Imported Food section
Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
Australia
Email: foodimp@agriculture.gov.au

The department will provide an application for assessment document that is consistent with the:

  • Guidelines for the Design, Operation, Assessment and Accreditation of Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems (CAC/GL 26-1997); and
  • Guidelines for the Development of Equivalence Agreements Regarding Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems (CAC/GL 34-1999).

The document provides detailed information on Australia’s animal health and food safety controls and will require the exporting country to provide information about raw milk cheese production in their country. This information will be used to assess whether the system in the exporting country for raw milk cheese production and processing is equivalent to the system in Australia.

Where the assessment determines equivalence with the system in Australia, the department will negotiate government certification for raw milk cheese exported to Australia in accordance with the Annex in the Guidelines for the Design, Operation, Assessment and Accreditation of Food Import and Export Inspection and Certification Systems (CAC/GL 26-1997).

The Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code Standard 4.2.4 provides for the production of raw milk cheese in Australia if certain animal health and primary production and processing controls are met. Food Standards Australia New Zealand provided risk assessment advice on raw milk cheese to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. The standard and the risk assessment advice provide the basis for Australia’s animal health and food safety controls.

Import conditions for raw milk cheese

To import raw milk cheese, the importer must comply with Australia’s biosecurity requirements and have a valid import permit. The border clearance criteria for raw milk cheese under the Imported Food Inspection Scheme are published on the department’s website.

Definition of raw milk cheese

Raw milk cheese is cheese that has not undergone a heat treatment step during production. Heat treatment includes pasteurisation, thermisation with additional measures or high temperature curd cook with additional measures. For the purposes of this description, the following definitions apply:

Pasteurisation means:

Milk or dairy products used to make cheese or cheese products have been pasteurised by

  1. heating to a temperature of no less than 72° Celsius (C) and retaining at such temperature for no less than 15 seconds; or
  2. heating, using any other time and temperature combination of equivalent or greater lethal effect on any pathogenic microorganisms in the milk or dairy product; or
  3. using any other process that provides an equivalent or greater lethal effect on any pathogenic microorganisms.

Thermisation with additional measures means:

Milk used to make cheese or cheese products has been processed by being held at a temperature of no less than 64.5°C for a period of no less than 16 seconds, and the cheese or cheese product stored at a temperature of no less than 7°C for a period of no less than 90 days from the date of processing.

High temperature curd cook with additional measures means:

Milk or dairy products used to make cheese or cheese products have been processed such that:

  1. the curd is heated to a temperature of no less than 48°C; and
  2. the cheese or cheese product has a moisture content of less than 39%, after being stored at a temperature of no less than 10°C for a period of no less than 120 days from the date of processing.