Importing Food to Australia
The Department of Agriculture (the department) is responsible for administering two sets of requirements with which imported food must comply. The first set of requirements address quarantine concerns. The second set of requirements address food safety and are those set out in the Imported Food Control Act 1992.
All imported food must meet biosecurity requirements to be allowed into the country. Once imported food has met these requirements foods are monitored for compliance to the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code.
The Quarantine Act 1908 requires that all imports of food comply with the quarantine conditions for their import. Quarantine restrictions apply to many raw foods and certain processed foods brought through the airport or mailed to Australia for private use. The following items are restricted:
- eggs and egg products
- dairy products
- uncanned meat
- seeds and nuts
- fresh fruit and vegetables
Commercial importers of food such as fresh fruit and vegetables or food containing milk, egg, meat or other animal products will need to obtain an import permit prior to importing the food. You can do initial checks for quarantine requirements by searching the Import Conditions Database (ICON). For more information contact your nearest regional office.
Like food that is produced domestically, food that is imported into Australia must meet Australian food standards. The monitoring of imported food is a responsibility shared across many government agencies, including those at local, state, territory and federal levels.
The food regulatory system in Australia
Policy decisions about food are made by the Australia New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council which is chaired by the Minister for Health and Ageing. This council, which includes Ministers for each state and territory government and the New Zealand government, receives policy advice from the Food Regulation Standing Committee (FRSC). This committee is chaired by the Department of Health and Ageing. Relevant officials from state and territory and New Zealand food regulatory agencies are also represented on this committee.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is the government body responsible for developing and maintaining the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. Australian law requires all food to meet the food safety standards set out in the Food Standards Code. The Food Standards Code applies to all food offered for sale in Australia, whether produced domestically or imported.
FSANZ monitors food safety incidents worldwide and provides advice to the department on monitoring and testing imported food. FSANZ advises the department when food poses a medium-high risk to human health and on appropriate testing. It also provides risk assessment advice to state and territory regulators, who are responsible for monitoring all food at point of sale, including imported food.
Department's role in the monitoring of imported food
The department's role to monitor imported food is part of a broader food regulatory system as discussed above.
Food entering Australia is subject to the Imported Food Control Act 1992, which provides for the inspection and control of imported food using a risk-based border inspection program, the Imported Food Inspection Scheme (IFIS). FSANZ advises the department on the risk classification of foods for inspection under the IFIS.
Role of state and territory authorities
In addition to the inspection activity undertaken at the border, state and territory authorities have responsibility for monitoring all food, including imported food, that is available for sale. Each state and territory authority has its own food legislation, which is based on the national Model Food Act developed by FSANZ and endorsed by the ANZFRMC. State and territory action on food is different from, but complementary to, that which occurs under the IFIS. On matters involving imported foods that has not been inspected or that have been found later not to be compliant, FSANZ, this department and the state and territory authorities work closely to address them.
Trans Tasman Mutual Recognition Arrangement (TTMRA)
Under the Imported Food Control Act 1992, surveillance foods from New Zealand are exempt from the IFIS as these come under the Trans Tasman Mutual Recognition Arrangement (TTMRA).
The only New Zealand foods that are subject to the IFIS at the border are those classified as risk foods. Equivalence determination of food safety systems covering dairy products was reached in 2007 and seafood, uncooked pigmeat, chicken meat, coconut, pepper, paprika, peanuts and pistachios were aligned in 2011. This enabled these products to be brought under the TTMRA and removed the requirement for border inspection for these products.
Australia and New Zealand are jointly working to reduce the remaining barriers to trade in food in line with the TTMRA principles. This work is being done by officials from this department, FSANZ and the New Zealand Food Safety Authority.
13 Nov 2013