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Increased checks for contaminated berries is a step in the right direction but more must be done

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 21 May 2015

Australian Greens spokesperson on Agriculture Senator Rachel Siewert said today that increased checks on imported berries are welcome but more must be done to strengthen the response to potentially contaminated products entering the country.

“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.

“Once Australian consumers began to contract Hepatitis A the Department of Agriculture was unable to increase consignment checks until Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) had undertaken a risk assessment, this meant 95% of berry consignments coming through remained unchecked.

“I welcome the additional testing for E. Coli as well as increased border testing that checks certification, but the system needs further changes.

“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 when FSANZ delivers its risk assessment.

“This bureaucratic window of opportunity for contaminated products to enter the country must be closed.

“I will be closely scrutinising the most recent changes in upcoming budget estimates”.

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