The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources has completed a review of biosecurity import conditions for fresh (chilled or frozen) beef and beef products from Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United States and Vanuatu.
There are three principal steps in the process.
- The department announced the commencement of the review via the release of Biosecurity Advice 2015-21 on 10 December 2015.
- The department released a draft report for stakeholder comment on 14 December 2016 via Biosecurity Advice 2016-36. The draft report outlines the identified biosecurity risks and proposed risk management measures to achieve Australia’s appropriate level of protection (ALOP).
- The department has completed the review, taking into consideration all stakeholder submissions and released the Fresh (chilled or frozen) beef and beef products from Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United States and Vanuatu – final review on 30 August 2017 via the release of Biosecurity Advice 2017-19.
The final report concludes that imports of fresh beef and beef products from Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United States and Vanuatu will be permitted subject to compliance with specified risk management measures.
Australia will require that listed establishments in the applicant countries operate Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point Quality Assurance plans (HACCP-based QA plans), and have their satisfactory operation verified via a bacteriological testing program equivalent to that undertaken in Australia, in accordance with relevant Australian standards.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand has responsibility for the food safety risks associated with the proposed import, including the following foodborne hazards: shiga-toxin producing E. coli (STEC), Salmonella spp. (including Salmonella Typhimurium DT104) and Campylobacter spp.
The release of the final report reflects the completion of the review of the biosecurity risks of importation of fresh beef and beef products from the applicant countries. There are a number of other steps to be completed before trade can commence:
- The department will verify that each of the applicant countries can meet the recommended risk management measures.
- Import conditions will be published on the department’s Biosecurity Import Conditions System (BICON). Interested stakeholders can register in the BICON system and receive an alert when the case is updated.
- A decision to import fresh beef and beef products from Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United States or Vanuatu is a commercial decision between an importer in Australia and a supplier in any of these countries who can meet the import conditions. Import permits will need to be issued for trade to commence.
Following release of the draft report on 14 December 2016, submissions were received from interested stakeholders in Australia and overseas. All stakeholder submissions were considered and a number of changes were made to the risk analysis report which improved the technical accuracy of the report but did not change the conclusions of the draft review.
Note that if new scientific information becomes available, it can be provided to the department for consideration after a risk analysis has been completed. The department will consider information provided and, if appropriate, review import requirements based on the new scientific information.
Protecting Australia from exotic pests and diseases
Australia's biosecurity system protects our unique environment and agricultural sector and supports our reputation as a safe and reliable trading nation. This has significant economic, environmental and community benefits for all Australians.
The term ‘biosecurity risk’ is used to describe the combination of the likelihood and the consequences of a pest or disease of biosecurity concern entering, establishing and spreading in Australia.
The department undertakes comprehensive risk analyses of potential biosecurity risks associated with the import of animals, plants or other goods into Australia and recommends risk management options to address these risks. Any recommended measures will reflect Australia’s overall approach to the management of biosecurity risk.
Zero risk is impossible; it would mean no tourists, no international travel and no imports of any commodities. Australia invests heavily in biosecurity to ensure risks are managed to the lowest possible level.
Australia exports almost two thirds of its agricultural produce. The future of our agriculture and food industries, including their capacity to contribute to growth and jobs, depends on Australia’s capacity to maintain a good plant and animal health status.
Australia accepts imports only when we are confident the risks of pests and diseases can be managed to achieve the appropriate level of protection (ALOP) for Australia.
Considerations during a review of biosecurity import requirements
All World Trade Organization (WTO) members are signatories to the Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (the SPS Agreement), under which they have both rights and obligations.
The basic obligations of the SPS Agreement are that SPS measures must:
- be based on a risk assessment appropriate to the circumstances or drawn from standards developed by the World Organization for Animal Health and the International Plant Protection Convention
- only be applied to the extent necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health
- be based on science
- not arbitrarily or unjustifiably discriminate between WTO members, or be a disguised restriction on trade.
Under the SPS Agreement, each WTO Member is entitled to maintain a level of protection it considers appropriate to protect human, animal or plant life or health within its territory – in other words, its ALOP.
Appropriate level of protection
The ALOP for Australia is defined in the Biosecurity Act 2015 as: a high level of sanitary and phytosanitary protection aimed at reducing biosecurity risks to very low, but not to zero.
This definition has been reached with the agreement of all state and territory governments and recognises that a zero risk stance is impractical because this would mean Australia would have no tourists, no international travel and no imports.
The ALOP is a broad objective, and risk management measures are established to achieve that objective.
Meeting Australia’s food laws
All food sold in Australia must satisfy Australia’s food laws. Australian law requires that all food, including imported fresh fruit, meets the standards set out in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, adheres to the food laws of each state and territory, and meets the requirements of the Imported Food Control Act 1992.
New scientific information
The department bases its risk analyses on available information and existing science. New scientific information can be provided to the department at any time, including after a risk analysis has been completed. The department will consider the information provided and may amend the import conditions if deemed necessary to maintain Australia’s ALOP.