Findings released in a performance audit by the Auditor General have confirmed community concerns that processes for checking imported products, like frozen berries, into Australia are not working properly and must be re-evaluated.
“The audit of the Imported Food Inspection Scheme has confirmed that the system for checking imported products are ‘incomplete and inconsistent’, this must prompt a shakeup of the sector”, says Australian Greens spokesperson on Agriculture, Senator Rachel Siewert.
“With the recent Hepatitis A scare it is clear that the Department of Agriculture has its hands tied when it comes to ramping up consignment checks for products that continue to come in once a potential contamination has been identified.
“I welcome the three recommendations by the Auditor General, which would ensure a more systematic approach towards monitoring the operation of risk profiles and the referral of imported food for inspection. Improved management around inspection related activities and developing performance measures are a step in the right direction.
“However we must go one step further to ensure that products aren’t coming through a bureaucratic loophole.
“It is clear there needs to be an amendment to the Imported Food Control Act. Whilst FSANZ carries out its risk assessment, the Department must have the capacity to implement an elevated rate of testing.
“This increase level of testing must apply from when a problem is identified until FSANZ delivers its risk assessment. Australian consumers are entitled to a precautionary approach.
“This loophole for contaminated products to enter the country must be closed. I will be closely scrutinising the implementation of these recommendations”.