Questions and answers

​Import Related Questions

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Why did the Director of Biosecurity suspend uncooked prawns?

It has been identified that there is an unacceptable level of white spot syndrome virus (WSSV) in imported uncooked prawns in retail outlets. This indicates that current biosecurity risk management conditions and compliance with those conditions are not managing the biosecurity risk to a level consistent with Australia’s appropriate level of protection.

What goods are suspended?

The Director of Biosecurity has suspended imports of the following class of goods for a period of six months effective from 00:00:01 hours (Australian eastern daylight savings time) on 9 January 2017:

  • uncooked prawns and uncooked prawn meat; and
  • uncooked prawns and uncooked prawn meat that have been marinated for human consumption.

Are there any exemptions?

The following class of goods are exempt from the suspension:

  • uncooked prawns and uncooked prawn meat sourced from New Caledonia;
  • uncooked prawns and uncooked prawn meat processed into dumplings, spring rolls, samosas, other dim sum-type products and other similar products;
  • uncooked prawns and uncooked prawn meat which have been coated for human consumption by being breaded, crumbed or battered.

I have prawns that have been shipped to Australia. Will they be allowed in?

Goods that are within the suspended class of goods that have been shipped but have not arrived in Australia, or have arrived but not been released from biosecurity control, will be permitted entry where the documented final/master Bill of Lading date at the port of origin is on or before 8 January 2017.

These goods will be subject to a new and enhanced inspection regime, which will include a secure-seals intact direction, 100% inspection of the consignment and sampling inspection and testing of all consignments. Importers may choose to export the goods if they do not wish to have them inspected.
Interference with the goods prior to the goods being inspected by a biosecurity officer will result in a direction to export being issued and possible civil or criminal prosecution.

Prawns that fall into the class of goods that have been suspended and that have been shipped with a documented final/master Bill of Lading date at the port of origin of 9 January 2017 or later are suspended and if imported to Australia will be required to be exported or destroyed.

What is the new inspection regime for prawns?

Goods that are within the suspended class of goods that have been shipped but have not arrived in Australia, or have arrived but not been released from biosecurity control, will be permitted entry where the documented final/master Bill of Lading date at the port of origin is on or before 8 January 2017.

These goods will be subject to a new and enhanced inspection regime, which will include a secure-seals intact direction, 100% inspection of the consignment and sampling inspection and testing of all consignments. Importers may choose to export the goods if they do not wish to have them inspected.

Importers may choose to export the goods if they do not wish to have them inspected.

What happens to my import permit for uncooked prawns?

If you hold an import permit for goods that have been suspended, your import permit will be suspended. This suspension will take effect from 9 January 2017 until 9 July 2017.

If your import permit allows for suspended goods and exempt goods your permit will be amended to remove the suspended goods.
If you have any questions regarding your import permit, you should contact the department’s Animal and Biological Import Assessments Branch on 1 800 900 090 or email Imports.

Are prawns in mixed seafood, e.g. marinara mix, suspended?

Yes. The import of any uncooked prawns or uncooked prawn meat, including marinated prawns and prawn meat, has been suspended by the Director of Biosecurity.

Why is New Caledonia exempt?

At this time only New Caledonia is recognised by Australia as free of white spot syndrome virus (WSSV). Therefore the Director of Biosecurity has decided to suspend the import of uncooked prawns from all countries other than New Caledonia.

Why are dim sims, spring rolls and battered and crumbed prawns exempt?

Crumbed prawns and prawns incorporated into dumplings, samosas and similar products represent a lower level of biosecurity risk, due to the high likelihood they will be cooked and eaten and the low likelihood of them being used as bait or berley by fishers. Accordingly the Director of Biosecurity has excluded these goods from the scope of the suspension.

Can I import shrimp or scampi?

The department recognises prawns (which may also be referred to as shrimp) as decapods of the suborders Dendrobranchiata (all families) and Pleocyemata (only families of the infraorder Caridea). These prawns/shrimp are suspended.

The department does not recognise glass sponge shrimp and coral shrimp (Stenopodidea: Pleocyemata: Decapoda) as prawns or shrimp. These shrimp are not suspended.

Scampi is a common name with various meanings and is not automatically recognised as a prawn. If a product is identified as scampi, additional information about the scientific name is required to determine if it is from the recognised classification.

Are Australian caught prawns which have been sent for processing overseas affected by the suspension?

Australian caught prawns which are sent offshore for processing and then re-exported to Australia are subject to the suspension if they are re-exported as uncooked prawns.

The department is currently reviewing the trade in Australian prawns sent offshore for processing and then re-exported to Australia. As part of this review, the department will consider risk management options to reduce the biosecurity risk associated with this product.

What are the new sampling protocols for uncooked prawns?

As part of the seals intact inspection of goods with a final/master Bill of Lading date at the port of origin on or before 8 January 2017, a biosecurity officer will take samples from each batch within a consignment. Thirteen samples, each containing a sub-sample of five prawns will be taken from each batch, department fees apply.

The samples from each batch will be sent to the importer’s nominated approved laboratory for testing at the importer’s expense. Batches returning a positive test result will be required to cooked, exported or destroyed at the importer’s expense.

If cooking is chosen as an option, the importer must contact the department to determine how and where this will be done.

Batches returning a negative test result will undergo a confirmatory test at the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) using the residual sample provided by the importer’s nominated approved laboratory. The results of this testing will be provided by AAHL to the department. The department will provide notification to the importer of the test results and any required action relating to specific batches. The cost of the second test at AAHL will be met by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

What are the new sampling protocols for uncooked marinated prawns (wet or dry)?

As part of the seals intact inspection of goods with a final/master Bill of Lading date at the port of origin on or before 8 January 2017, a biosecurity officer will take samples from each batch within a consignment. Thirteen samples, each containing a sub-sample of five prawns will be taken from each batch, department fees apply.

The samples from each batch will be sent to the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL) for testing. The results of the testing will be provided by AAHL to the department. The department will provide notification to the importer of the test results and any required action relating to specific batches. The cost of testing at AAHL will be met by the importer and is available on request from AAHL.

The cost of testing at AAHL will be at the importers expense.

General Issues relating to the suspension of uncooked prawns

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Are imported prawns safe to eat?

White spot disease is a highly contagious viral infection that affects crustaceans. It does not pose a human health risk.

What about imported prawns already for sale in Australia?

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is conducting on-going inspections and testing of imported uncooked prawns or uncooked prawn meat that is already in Australia. Where testing is positive for white spot disease, action will be taken to have the product removed from sale in order to protect Australia’s animal biosecurity.

The department has requested a number of importer’s to voluntarily recall product that has tested positive for white spot syndrome virus. The department’s investigations are on-going.

White spot disease does not pose a human health risk.

What is white spot syndrome virus?

White spot syndrome virus is a highly contagious viral infection that affects crustaceans. Further information on white spot syndrome virus is available on the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources website.

Is the current outbreak of white spot disease on the Logan River a result of imported prawns?

The cause of the current outbreak of white spot disease on the Logan River in Queensland is unknown and is being further investigated.

Details on the outbreak and how it is being managed are available on the Outbreak website.

When was the biosecurity risk of imported prawns last assessed?

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources published an Import Risk Analysis for Prawn and Prawn Products in 2009.

This import risk analysis was subject to appeal and an Import Risk Analysis Appeal Panel (IRAAP) was convened to review four appeals from:

  • the Department of Fisheries, Thailand
  • the Australian Prawn Farmers Association
  • the Seafood Importers Association of Australasia Inc
  • the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Vietnam, National Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Quality Assurance Department.

Details of the review and the findings of the IRAAP are available on the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources website.

Why shouldn’t imported prawns be used as bait or berley?

The use of imported uncooked prawns as bait or berley in recreational fishing carries a likelihood of infecting crustaceans with white spot syndrome virus (WSSV), including farmed prawns, in Australian river systems. Imported uncooked prawns should never be used as bait or berley.

What is Australia’s appropriate level of protection?

Australia’s appropriate level of protection is defined in section 5 of the Biosecurity Act 2015 as a high level of sanitary and phytosanitary protection aimed at reducing biosecurity risks to a very low level, but not to zero.

Further information on Australia’s appropriate level is available on the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources website.

Can you please tell me how the suspension of uncooked prawn imports relates to frozen prawn bait products?

All uncooked prawns, including any imported for bait, are subject to the current suspension of trade.

Under usual conditions, prawns imported for use in bait products are subject to gamma irradiation at the border.

Uncooked prawns imported for human consumption should never be used as bait.

I have seen a prawn at the supermarket with white spots on the shell. What should I do?

Risk management conditions require that uncooked prawns imported into Australia are head-off and shelled. However, the last shell segment and tail fans are not required to be removed.

It is important to note that, although white spots on the shell are a clinical feature of white spot syndrome virus (WSSV) in prawns, they are not a reliable indication of infection. White spots on prawns can occur as a result of environmental factors such as high alkalinity or through the freezing process.

What is the turnaround time for testing of imported uncooked prawns and marinated prawns conducted by the Australian Animal Health Laboratory (AAHL)?

The AAHL has advised that once they receive the sample to be tested, it generally takes 2 days for results to be known.  There is no ability to expedite the testing.

I have a consignment of mixed product, can I deconsolidate the consignment?

Where suspended goods are part of a mixed consignment, a biosecurity officer is required to be present for a seals intact inspection and the deconsolidation of the consignment.

Goods that are to be exported must be secured in a container that will be sealed by the inspecting biosecurity officer. If multiple consignments are to be consolidated into the one container, a biosecurity officer is required to be present. The product must remain under biosecurity control at all times.

The container to be exported will be sealed/resealed by the biosecurity officer. When consolidated and ready for export, the biosecurity officer will issue a Non Manipulation Certificate to confirm that the goods have not been interfered with during the consolidation process.

The importer must contact the department to discuss deconsolidate their consignment prior to inspection of the product.

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