Strengthening the management of imported food safety

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The Imported Food Control Amendment Bill 2017 (the Bill) was introduced into the House of Representatives of the Australian Parliament by the Deputy Prime Minister on 1 June 2017 and is currently before the Senate. The imported food reforms are aimed at better protecting Australians from food safety and health risks with tougher new powers to let authorities hold food imports at the border if there is reasonable suspicion of risk to human health. Once the Bill has passed both houses of Parliament and received Royal Ascent, it will become effective by amending the Imported Food Control Act 1992. Access a copy of the Bill from the Parliament of Australia’s website.

The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is strengthening Australia’s imported food safety system to better protect consumer health. The changes being made will also reduce the regulatory burden for compliant food importers while upholding Australia’s international obligations.

Improvements will be made through legislative and non-legislative changes and be delivered through 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.

These 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 an increasing consumer demand for imported food.

The changes were developed through engagement with food importers, industry representatives and trading partners.​

Strengthening the imported food safety system

Passage of the Bill will enable legislative changes 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.

Non-legislative changes will:

  • improve Australian Government communications during a national food incident
  • increase the number of food importers with effective food safety management systems in place, voluntarily importing food under a tailored Food Import Compliance Agreement (FICA)
  • enable proactive compliance and enforcement activities through better use of imported food data
  • explore opportunities to work with state and territory food regulators to conduct agreed non-legislative surveys of new and emerging food safety risks
  • increase the number of foreign government certification arrangements in place to manage the import of high risk food.

Timing of the changes

The legislative and regulation amendments arising from passage of the Bill will become effective during 2018.

Specific provisions within the legislative amendments will become effective the day after the Bill has passed apart from the following provisions:

  • 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 legislation is passed.

The non-legislative changes will require minimal adjustment by food importers and will be implemented alongside the legislative reforms. Food importers interested in applying for a tailored Food Import Compliance Agreement or learning more about foreign certification of high risk foods are invited to email Imported Food Inquiries.

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

Developing the changes

The changes have been developed through formal and informal consultation with food importers, industry representatives, domestic food regulators and Australia’s trading partners.

Imported food survey

To help us better understand the effects of the changes being introduced, and inform the preparation of a Regulation Impact Statement (RIS), we 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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Food Importer Research



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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.​​​​​