Under the Imported Food Control Regulations 1993, the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment can lower the rate that food is inspected, if there are reasonable grounds for believing the food from a particular source
- complies with applicable standards; and
- does not pose a risk to human health.
‘Reasonable grounds’ includes food covered by a written arrangement between the department and a government agency of a foreign country, based on an assessment that the food safety systems of Australia and the foreign country are equivalent. The assessment must also conclude that the government agencies in both countries conduct equivalent monitoring of the food they regulate.
Scope of a food safety recognition agreement
The agreement (sometimes called ‘arrangement’) sets out the food that is covered and not covered under the agreement. It may cover risk food and/or surveillance food.
The agreement does not cover the biosecurity certification requirements for any food imported to Australia. Check the Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON) for more information.
The agreement does not cover Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) certification requirements. Australia’s food safety certification requirements for beef and beef products for human consumption can be found at BSE food safety requirements and biosecurity certification requirements for beef and beef products can be obtained from BICON.
Purpose of a food safety recognition agreement
The purpose of a food safety recognition agreement is to reduce the rate of import inspection and analysis of a food covered by the agreement, on the basis that the food has been produced under an equivalent food safety system in the exporting country.
Consignments of imported risk food covered by a food safety recognition agreement will be inspected and tested at 5% initially instead of at the 100% rate, reducing the border clearance processes for the importer and exporter of this food. However, if the food referred for inspection and analysis fails, the inspection rate will be raised to 100% until five consecutive passes are achieved.
Consignments of imported surveillance food will continue to have a 5% chance of being referred for inspection and analysis. If a surveillance food fails an inspection or analysis it will have its inspection rate increased to 100% until five consecutive passes are achieved, as occurs now.
If a food safety recognition agreement is mutual, i.e. covers both food imports into Australia from a particular country and food exports from Australia to that country, then it is expected that shipments of Australian food covered by the agreement will be subject to a reduced import inspection and analysis when they arrive in the particular country.
Current food safety recognition agreements
US Food and Drug Administration
The department signed in April 2017 an agreement with the US FDA recognising that Australia’s food safety system and the US food safety system as administered by USFDA are comparable / equivalent to each other.
Foods covered by this agreement include canned foods (except those containing beef), most seafood, most dairy products, fresh fruit and vegetables, fruit juices, confectionery and baked goods.
Food not covered by this agreement include meat (except game meat), poultry, processed egg products, raw bivalve molluscan shellfish, raw milk cheese and dietary supplements and natural health products.
Brokers and importers of food imported into Australia from the US do not need to change the way in which this food is lodged. Food covered by the agreement will, where applicable, automatically have a reduced rate of inspection and analysis applied.
For more information on how this agreement impacts on food that is exported from Australia to the US, see Food Safety Recognition Agreements (Arrangements) with other countries.