Imported food surveys and reviews

​​​​​​​​​​Imported Food Surveys

In addition to the routine testing of imported food conducted as part of the Imported Food Inspection Scheme (IFIS), the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources conducts additional testing of imported food through survey work. The surveys aim to gather information to inform the risk assessment processes undertaken by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), and to provide data to assist in determining the most appropriate routine testing of imported food.

The department, in conjunction with state and territory food regulatory authorities, participate in nationally coordinated surveys under the Implementation Sub-committee for Food Regulation (ISFR).

ISFR is a sub-committee of the Food Regulation Standing Committee and its role is to develop and oversee a consistent approach across jurisdictions to the implementation and enforcement of food regulations and standards, regardless of whether food is sourced from domestic producers, export registered establishments or from imports.

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Carbon Monoxide in Fish Pilot Survey

Since 2006, the department has received a number of complaints from industry expressing concern about imports of tuna that have been subjected to carbon monoxide (CO) treatment to fix the colour of the flesh, potentially misleading consumers by masking the age and condition of fish.

In May to July 2017, the department undertook a small targeted pilot survey with the main objectives to ascertain if there is any evidence that imports of tuna are being treated with CO, and to assess if the level of CO in tuna had any correlation with histamine levels.

The main findings of the department's CO in fish pilot survey were:

  • there is evidence that tuna in the Australian marketplace has been treated with CO, some of which may be imported tuna
  • no correlation was found between high levels of CO and histamine levels, with all samples recording levels of <10 mg/kg of histamine

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DocumentPagesFile size
Carbon Monoxide in Fish Pilot Survey Report PDF131.3 MB

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Imported Horticultural Products Survey

The results of the department's imported horticultural products survey assessing the safety of imported horticulture products show that imported horticultural products are safe.

The survey was commissioned by the former Minister for Agriculture in addition to normal departmental testing regimes.

The department's survey results were analysed by FSANZ, which advised that the results confirm that horticultural products remain a low food safety risk.

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DocumentPagesFile size
Imported Horticultural Products Survey Report PDF862 KB
Additional Information - Imported Horticultural Products Survey PDF113 KB
Extended Imported Horticultural Products Survey Report PDF549KB

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This survey has been extended to gather more information on the occurrence of the microbe E. coli O157:H7 on imported horticultural products.

Imported Seafood Survey

There has been considerable media and public interest in the standards and testing applied to imported seafood products. Globally, there is concern over the presence of residues in seafood and the effects of these residues on the health of the consumer. Australian consumers have expressed concerns to the Australian Government regarding the fitness for human consumption of imported seafood.

In response to these concerns, the department conducted a survey on imported seafood products from April 2006 to March 2007. The department designed this survey to provide a 'snapshot' on the potential presence of residues of agricultural and veterinary compounds in imported seafood and whether the current testing done under the Imported Food Inspection Scheme was up to date.

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DocumentPagesFile size
FSANZ – Seafood Survey Risk Assessment Advice PDF19823 KB
Questions and Answers - Imported Seafood Survey PDF513 KB

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Imported Spices Survey

A national survey has been conducted under the coordinated food survey plan to gather information on the microbiological status of spices available for sale within Australia.

A number of food regulatory agencies in Australia, including the department, participated in this survey.

A range of spices, including whole, ground and mixed products, were assessed for water activity, Salmonella spp., Bacillus cereus and Clostridium perfringens.

Samples of spices were collected from supermarkets, small retailers, health food shops, market stalls and other retail outlets or upon import into Australia.

This survey can be found on the website of the Victorian Department of Human Health Services.

Review of the tests applied to imported seafood

The Australian Government’s 2007 policy document titled ‘Lab​or’s plan for sustainable fisheries’ included a commitment to undertake a review of:

  • the provisions of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code) that are relevant to seafood; and
  • the current testing protocols for imported seafood products.

The review of the provisions of the Code was addressed by FSANZ who concluded that the standards in the Code are scientifically robust and provide the appropriate level of protection for Australian consumers of seafood.

To progress the second part of the policy, the department engaged CSIRO Food Science Australia to review of the current testing protocols for imported seafood products. CSIRO Food Science Australia was provided with background information from the Imported Food section including legislation, testing protocols, test results, details for industry and government stakeholders and a copy of the FSANZ review.

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DocumentPagesFile size
CSIRO Food Science Australia report Review of the Current Testing Protocols for Imported Seafood Products PDF90125 KB
CSIRO Food Science Australia report Review of the Current Testing Protocols for Imported Seafood Products DOCX90475 KB

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If you require further information, please contact:

Imported Food
Department of Agriculture and Water Resources
GPO Box 858
Canberra, ACT 2601
Telephone: +61 2 6272 5488
Email: Foo​d Imports​