IFN 20-15 – Action on undeclared allergen in coconut drinks and powders

​​​​​Issued: 25 September 2015
Supersedes: IFN19-15 Action on undeclared allergen in coconut drinks

Purpose

The purpose of this notice is to alert the importing industry to their responsibility to ensure imported food is safe and allergens are correctly declared and labelled. This notice advises industry of additional border action in response to multiple recalls of imported coconut drinks and coconut milk powders that contain an undeclared allergen (milk).

Recalls of coconut drink and powders containing undeclared dairy content

In January 2014 there was a recall of Green Time Natural Coconut Drink for the presence of an undeclared allergen (milk).

On 29 August 2015 there was a recall of Coco Joy Pure Coconut Milk for the same issue. Both of these products were imported.

These recalls prompted further action by state authorities to investigate other similar coconut drinks on sale. Further testing has identified other imported coconut drinks with milk present and not declared on the label.

As a result of the testing, more recalls of coconut drinks have been initiated. Further testing by state and territory food authorities have detected undeclared milk in coconut powder, resulting in further recalls.

These recalls indicate that other coconut drinks and coconut powders may also contain milk or dairy products used as whitening agents or for other technological functions but not declared on the label. The absence of the declaration may be accidental or may be because other countries do not require allergen labelling for milk.

Action being taken on coconut drinks and coconut powders under the Imported Food Inspection Scheme 25 September 2015

In response to the multiple findings of undeclared milk in imported coconut drinks, the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources implemented action at the border to test coconut drinks for the presence of milk where it is not declared on the label. This action commenced on 18 September 2015.

On 25 September 2015, the department implemented action at the border to test coconut powders for the presence of milk where it is not declared on the label.

Inspection of imports will be required. At inspection, the labels will be checked for the declaration of the presence of milk in accordance with the requirements of Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, Standard 1.2.3. If milk is not declared on the label, samples will be taken for analytical testing.

Inspection of coconut milk drink imports will be required. At inspection, the labels will be checked for the declaration of the presence of milk in accordance with the requirements of Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code, Standard 1.2.3. If milk is not declared on the label, samples will be taken for analytical testing.

Where an undeclared allergen is detected under the scheme, the food will be failed and require re-labelling. Importers must determine whether a recall is required for any product previously imported. This information will be passed on to the state authorities for follow up investigation.

Border intervention will remain in place until the department is satisfied the identified products are safe and compliant.

Importation of food which poses a risk to human health is an offence

Importers must be aware that the presence of undeclared allergens poses a risk to human health.

Under section 8 of the Imported Food Control Act 1992 (Act), it is an offence to import food into Australia if the importer knows, or ought reasonably to have known, that it poses a risk to human health. The offence carries a penalty of imprisonment for 10 years.

Assistance in managing allergens in food

As the responsible food business in Australia, the importer must know what ingredients are in the food and whether these ingredients are allergens. Upon arrival, the importer must also ensure allergens are correctly declared on the label.

There are tools to assist the food industry (including importers) manage allergens and labelling. The Australian Food and Grocery Council publish the Food Industry Guide to Allergen Management and Labelling.

As well as publishing standards, Food Standards Australia New Zealand have a food allergen portal, summarising resources available to industry. State and territory health authorities also publish requirements and assistance on identification and declaration of food allergies, such as:

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