The red meat sector will join a long list of food commodities scrutinised under the Federal Government’s move to standardise food safety requirements.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand has called for submissions on a proposed primary production and processing standard for meat.
FSANZ chief executive officer Steve McCutcheon said the proposed standard provided a national ‘whole of chain’ approach to food safety regulation of meat products.
“The standard recognises that existing state and territory laws already cover issues such as animal feed and water, traceability and processing activities,” Mr McCutcheon said.
“What the proposed new standard will do is bring all these issues under the one umbrella so that if a food safety incident occurs, regulators will be better-placed to investigate food safety matters through the entire supply chain.”
“Having this ability provides the public and industry with assurances that the regulator can investigate, where appropriate, food safety matters at any point in the meat supply chain.”
Australian Meat Industry Council’s veterinary counsel, Dr John Langbridge, told Beef Central that in practical terms, the call for submissions over a national standard was part of a long-term project around the development of primary production and processing standards for various agricultural commodities.
Sectors like poultry, eggs, pork, milk and other dairy products have already been finalised, and now it’s the turn of red meat and meat products and horticulture.
“Because the current red meat processing system operates so well, however, the government is not talking about mandating or adding anything over what currently exists – so long as the system that currently operates through the existing Australian standard is seen to be working,” Dr Langbridge said.
“That relies, to some extent, on proof of a high level of voluntary compliance from farmers using tools like the Livestock Production Assurance and National Vendor Declaration programs. If the Government is satisfied that that is the case, then it is likely to simply tick-off on the current system. We think that is the most likely outcome,” he said.
Should the voluntary compliance level for LPA/NVD drop significantly for any reason, however, the Government might go back and re-visit the issue to determine whether mandates needed to be applied.
“But at this point, at least, so long as beef producers keep doing the right thing, it’s likely to be business as usual,” Dr Langbridge said.
The FSANZ website says that although Australia enjoys a high level of food safety protection, like many other nations it faces the challenge of continually improving food safety.
“In order to improve public health and safety, Australian Governments have agreed that food safety should be managed throughout all parts of the food supply chain, from paddock to plate. This also aims to ensure consumers continue to have the highest confidence in the safety of the food they consume, but at the same time do this in a way that minimises the impost on food businesses.”
“It is considered important that managing food safety focuses on points in the food chain where hazards are introduced, rather than relying on solving a problem at the end of the process. This through-chain preventive approach ensures that Australia addresses risks to public health in the food supply, builds consumer confidence, safeguards international trade in food and, in time, improves levels of food safety for the consumer.”
This approach built on the Food Safety Standards developed by FSANZ a decade ago, which applied mandatory hygiene requirements to manufacturing, retail and the food services sectors of the food supply.
- The full background on the submissions process can be accessed on the FSANZ website here.
- The closing date for submissions is 3 December.