Media reporting misrepresents BSE risk status

Jon Condon, 25/02/2013


Contrary to recent metropolitan media reports, Australia is not about to import beef from BSE-impacted countries in Europe.

News Limited publications recently ran an article under the title “Imported beef ban lifted in Australia,” suggesting that a decision had been taken by the Federal government that would allow the importation of beef from the Netherlands, Croatia and Vanuatu, following a review of their BSE status.

“The article was unfortunately misguided, out-of-context and in fact reported on announcements made four months ago,” the Australian Meat Industry Council said in an advice to industry stakeholders.

“Unfortunately in the process, it generated a lot of negative media,” an AMIC spokesman said.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand released a review of the BSE status of the three countries mentioned in the article in November of last year, AMIC explained.

However the FSANZ review simply confirmed the BSE status of the three countries. At no point did it suggest any authorisation to import beef from the countries concerned.  

“The certification requirements that these or any other countries need to meet in order to export beef to Australia is separate to this review and those requirements have not changed,” AMIC said.

In 2009 when Australia brought some of its domestic retail regulations into line with the WTO, the Australian government announced a revised policy on BSE that established new requirements for imported beef and beef products.

Under this policy, any country wishing to export beef to Australia had to apply to the Australian BSE Food Safety Assessment Committee for a country-specific BSE food safety assessment. This included countries already exporting to Australia, such as New Zealand and Vanuatu.

The BSE food safety assessment was undertaken by FSANZ and included, when necessary, an in-country inspection. The assessment on New Zealand was completed some time ago, while the assessment on the Netherlands, Vanuatu and Croatia was released in November last year.

Vanuatu has occasionally exported beef to Australia for more than ten years, from an Australian-supported abattoir on a quarantine-protected island.

Denmark is already a major supplier of pork products to Australia, however for Croatia or Denmark to export beef to Australia, they would still have to meet the import certification requirements that have always existed.

“The real interest on this issue is the status of the United States and Canada, the BSE reviews of which remain in limbo,” AMIC told stakeholders last week. “Those reviews will have to be completed and a negligible risk achieved before US and Canadian beef can ever be exported to Australia.”

  • The original News Ltd article, accessible here, suggested the ‘official green light’ ended a decade-long import ban on fresh or frozen beef from Europe.



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