Strengthening the management of imported food safety

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The Imported Food Control Amendment Bill 2017 (the Bill) is currently before the Senate in the Australian Parliament. The Bill when passed will introduce amendments to the Imported Food Control Act 1992 aimed at better protecting Australians from imported food safety and health risks. The changes include new enforcement provisions and capacity to allow the department to hold food at the border if there is reasonable grounds it poses a risk to human health. Access a copy of the Bill from the Parliament of Australia’s website.

The department is strengthening Australia’s imported food safety system to better protect consumer health. Improvements will be made through legislative changes affecting the operation of the Imported Food Inspection Scheme. The changes will deliver the following objectives:

  • increase importers accountability for food safety
  • increase importers sourcing safe food
  • improve monitoring and management of new and emerging food safety risks
  • improve incident response.

The changes will help ensure the Imported Food Inspection Scheme is able to respond to the potential risks posed by the growing complexity of globalised food supply chains and increasing consumer demand for imported food.

Strengthening the imported food safety system

Passage of the Bill will make amendments to the Imported Food Control Act 1992 to:

  • mandate documentary evidence that importers have effective internationally recognised food safety controls in place through the supply chain for the types of food where at-border testing alone is insufficient to provide assurance of food safety
  • broaden Australia’s emergency powers to allow food to be held at the border where there is uncertainty about the safety of a particular food
  • provide additional powers to monitor and manage new and emerging risks through the temporary application of a variable rate of inspection or inspection and analysis
  • enable recognition of a foreign country’s food safety regulatory system where there is equivalence with Australia’s food safety system to facilitate the border clearance of food products from that country
  • require all importers have a system in place to be able to trace food one step forwards and one step backwards
  • establish differentiated enforcement provisions that are consistent with domestic food safety legislation where applicable to imported food.

Timing of the changes

The legislative and regulation amendments arising from passage of the Bill will become effective after passage of the Bill, except for the following:

  • food importers will have 12 months to adjust business practices before the new supply chain assurance and traceability requirements in part one and six of the Bill are enforced
  • new enforcement provisions set out in part 5 of the Bill will become effective 28 days after the Bill is passed.

Email Imported Food Inquiries to receive updates about the implementation of the changes.

Developing the changes

The changes were developed in consultation with food importers, industry representatives, domestic food regulators and Australia’s trading partners.

Imported food survey

To better understand the effects of the changes and inform the preparation of a Regulation Impact Statement (RIS), the department engaged Colmar Brunton Social Research to conduct research into food importer compliance, awareness and importer behaviour.

As part of this research, a food importer survey was undertaken from 18 April to 3 May 2016.

The survey collected information on:

  • frequency and type of imports
  • compliance with the Imported Food Inspection Scheme
  • supply chain assurance that food importers have in place
  • traceability of food.

Research also included an analysis of the costs and benefits of the changes being introduced.

Download the report



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Regulation impact statement (RIS)

Feedback was sought from the Australian public and trading partners through a consultation RIS about the imported food changes. This consultation closed on 30 September 2016.​

Thank you to everyone who read the consultation RIS and provided feedback or made a submission.

Download the final decision RIS from the Office of Best Practice Regulation.​​​​​​