IFN 01-18 - Tests applied to surveillance food

Issued: 26 March 2018


The purpose of this notice is to advise of amendments to the tests applied to surveillance food that come into effect for all entries lodged from 24 April 2018.

Summary of changes effective from 24 April 2018

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has completed a review of the surveillance tests applied to the following imported food products:

  • Fresh and frozen meat
  • Fruit and vegetables that are minimally processed and are ready to eat
  • Dried herbs
  • Shredded coconut, chilled or frozen
  • Hemp seed and hemp seed products

Surveillance tests are randomly applied at a rate of 5 per cent of consignments.

Fresh and frozen meat – antimicrobial screen

The pesticide screen that has been applied to imports of meat, edible offal and animal fats at the surveillance rate since December 2006 will cease as of 24 April 2018. This test will be replaced by a screen for certain antibiotic residues identified as being of high importance to human medicine. The screen will initially be limited to include testing for fluoroquinolones (same as those in the seafood/fish antimicrobial screen), cephalosporins (ceftiofur) and streptogramins (virginiamycin). Analysis results will be assessed against Standard 1.4.2 of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.

Beef from New Zealand is excluded from the tests.

Selected minimally processed fruit and vegetables - E. coli and Salmonella

In March 2015 the department introduced surveillance testing for E. coli in frozen ready-to-eat berries as an indicator of process hygiene following the outbreak of hepatitis A in this food. A review of microbiological risks associated with other fresh and minimally processed fruits and vegetables identified other types of ready-to-eat horticultural products susceptible to microbiological contamination. As a result of this review, the department will add E. coli testing to:

  • Fresh baby corn
  • Sweet/sugar snap peas
  • Fresh chillies
  • Frozen spinach
  • Dried, semi dried and sundried tomatoes
  • Dried dates

and Salmonella testing to:

  • Dried and powdered herbs
  • Shredded coconut – chilled and/or frozen

Foods imported as an ingredient or going for further processing are excluded from these tests as they receive a heat treatment through cooking which eliminates the risk.


The department will use the standards established by the International Commission on Microbiological Specification for Foods (ICMSF) to determine compliance with section 3(2) of the Imported Food Control Act which states that food poses a risk to human health if it contains pathogenic micro-organisms or their toxins, or, micro-organisms indicating poor handling

Food will be cleared against the criteria outlined in the following table:

Hazard/test appliedFood typeStandard
E. coliDried dates, dried, semi-dried, sundried tomatoesn=5, c=2, m=100, M=1000 cfu/g
Frozen spinachn=5, c=2, m=10 cfu/g
Ready to eat fresh and fresh cut, minimally processed vegetables – baby corn, sweet/sugar snap peas, fresh chilliesn=5, c=1, m=10, M=100 cfu/g
SalmonellaDried and powdered herbsn=10, c=0, m=not detected in any 25 g sample
Shredded coconut, fresh/chilledn= 10, c=0, m=not detected in any 25 g sample


n = the minimum number of sample units which must be examined from a lot of food,
c = the maximum allowable number of defective sample units, i.e that have counts between ‘m’ and ‘M’
m = the acceptable microbiological level in a sample unit
M = the level which when exceeded (i.e. the level is greater than M) in one or more samples would cause the lot to be rejected.

Hemp seeds and hemp seed products

On 12 November 2017, the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code was amended to permit the sale of low-tetrahydrocannabinol (low-THC) Cannabis sativa seed (known as hemp seed) as food or for use as an ingredient in food.

On 24 April 2018 the department will introduce testing of hemp seeds and hemp seed food products at the surveillance rate to verify that imports are derived from low THC cannabis sativa seed and comply with the permitted levels for total THC and cannabidiol set down in Standard 1.4.4 ‘Prohibited and restricted plants and fungi’.

Hemp seed and hemp seed protein powders/flour referred for inspection will be cleared where:

  • total THC is not more than 5 mg/kg
  • cannabidiol is not more than 75 mg/kg

Hemp oil (oil extracted from low THC hemp seed) will be cleared where:

  • total THC is not more than 10 mg/kg
  • cannabidiol is not more than 75 mg/kg

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