IFN 08-18 - Border controls for carbon monoxide treatment of tuna

20 July 2018

Purpose

The purpose of this notice is to advise importers and brokers about the introduction of border controls for the inspection and analysis of carbon monoxide (CO) treatment of tuna. The new controls are anticipated to commence in November 2018, with a precise date to be confirmed in the coming months.

What has changed?

From the commencement date, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources will refer imported tuna for inspection and analysis under the Imported Food Inspection Scheme (IFIS) at the surveillance rate of five per cent to assess compliance as per the table below.

Table 1 Documentation and labelling provided, test applied and permitted results

Documentation and labelling providedTest appliedPermitted result

No documentation or labelling indicating the product has been treated directly or indirectly with CO

Carbon monoxide

< 200 µg/kg
If above the permitted result, the product will be failed.

Labelled as having being treated with a filtered, odourless or tasteless smoke

N/A

The product must be clearly identified as having being ‘smoked’. If not, the product will be failed.

Labelled as having being treated with CO directly (e.g. by gas flushing)

N/A

The product will be failed.

Background

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 October 2013, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) published a report Proposal P1019 – Carbon Monoxide as a Processing Aid for Fish. Subsequent to the report FSANZ made a variation to Standard 1.3.3 – Processing Aids in the Food Standards Code. The variation clarifies that carbon monoxide must not be used in the processing of fish where its use results in a change to or fixes the colour of the flesh of the fish. The variation also clarifies that this prohibition does not extend to carbon monoxide that is naturally occurring or naturally present in smoke being used to process fish as a food. The report is available on the FSANZ website.

In November 2016, the department published an Imported Food notice, IFN 19-16 – Carbon monoxide treatment of fish, to advise importers of restrictions on the use of carbon monoxide in the processing of fish, and the steps they should take to ensure they only import fish that complies with the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.

To ascertain if there is any evidence that imports of tuna are being treated with CO, the department undertook a small targeted pilot survey. The survey report, ‘Carbon Monoxide in Fish Pilot Survey’, March 2018 is available on the Imported food surveys and reviews webpage. The survey found evidence that tuna available for sale in Australia has been treated with CO, some of which may be imported.

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