The Department of Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is responsible for managing the biosecurity risks and consumer safety requirements relating to plant based products for human consumption (food, drink, medicine and therapeutics) imported to Australia.
This is administered under two sets of legislation, each with their own separate purpose and requirements:
- Food imports must meet Australian food safety standards as set out in the Imported Food Control Act 1992.
- All products imported for human consumption (food, drink, medicine and therapeutics) must meet any import conditions imposed by the department under the Biosecurity Act 2015.
If you are planning to import plant based products for human consumption, you will need to be aware of your responsibilities under both sets of legislation and make sure you comply with all relevant requirements.
Food safety requirements
It is the importer’s responsibility to make sure that all imported food complies with the Imported Food Control Act 1992. The standards for labelling and composition of all food sold in Australia are set out in the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (FSC), administered by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ).
The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry monitors food safety hazards and compliance with the FSC through the Imported Food Inspection Scheme. Under this scheme, imported food may undergo inspection and testing.
Import conditions for plant based food, drink, or supplements intended for human consumption are set by the department under the Biosecurity Act 2015. These conditions are designed to protect against the risk of introducing harmful pests and diseases that could devastate Australia’s environment and agricultural industries.
Before you import plant based products for human consumption to Australia, you will need to search the department’s Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON) to determine:
- if your commodity is permitted
- if the country of export is approved for your particular commodity
- import conditions that you will have to meet, including documentation, packaging and treatment requirements.
Any commodity not listed in BICON or not listed for the intended country of export cannot be imported until a risk assessment is conducted and import conditions are developed by the department and published in BICON.
Products containing any material of animal, microbial or biological origin (such as meat, egg or milk) may have additional import conditions.
BICON cases by commodity
The information below outlines some of the specific risks associated with different types of plant produce and products for human consumption, and will direct you to the appropriate import conditions in BICON.
Fresh fruit and vegetables
Fresh fruit and vegetables are plant commodities that are unprocessed or only partially processed. Partial processing may include slicing or removing peel.
The pest and disease risks associated with fresh produce can be high, and varies significantly between commodities and exporting locations. Some fresh fruits and vegetables are currently not permitted for import to Australia, or not permitted from certain countries. Other commodities may be imported subject to strict import conditions.
To find out whether a fresh commodity is permitted and what import conditions apply, search the Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON) for the commodity you want to import.
Fresh produce that does not have import conditions listed on BICON for the intended country of export cannot be imported until:
- a Biosecurity Import Risk Analysis (BIRA) has been completed
- appropriate import conditions have been developed.
For a BIRA to be considered, a formal request must be made by the appropriate government authority of the exporting country. This process can take several years at a minimum.
Further information regarding the importation of commercial imported fresh produce is available at Fresh produce – Commercial imports.
Frozen fruit and vegetables
Sufficient freezing can significantly reduce many of the biosecurity risks associated with plant produce.
Frozen fruit and vegetables that are being imported to Australia must comply with both of the following criteria:
- be frozen for a minimum 7 consecutive days at -18°C prior to arrival
- arrive in Australia frozen.
Some commodities also require further processing to reduce biosecurity risks, such as skinning, peeling or removing seeds, roots or leaves. Some frozen fruits and vegetables are currently not permitted for import to Australia, or not permitted from certain countries.
Details of permitted frozen fruits and vegetables and their import conditions including documentation requirements are available in BICON:
Dried fruit and vegetables
For some fruits and vegetables, the drying process, particularly freeze drying, can reduce biosecurity risks.
However, dried fruit and vegetables may still carry:
- viable seeds or other plant material
- seed-borne diseases (such as plum pox virus)
- other pathogens
- storage pests (such as khapra beetle).
Many dried fruits and vegetables can be imported into Australia, however import conditions apply (for example, some can only be imported with peel and/or seeds removed and some may require an import permit).
To see which dried fruit and vegetable products can be imported and for full import conditions refer to these BICON cases as applicable:
Preserved fruit and vegetables
Preserved fruit and vegetables includes fruit and vegetables that have been preserved or pickled in salt brine, vinegar, alcohol, sugar syrup or oil, including:
- glacé and crystallised fruit
- canned and bottled vegetables
Preserved fruit and vegetables must be aseptically packaged (commercially heat treated to render the contents sterile) to reduce the biosecurity risk to an acceptably low level. Import conditions include requirements for evidence of the processing method for commercial consignments.Please refer to the BICON case preserved fruit and vegetables for human consumption for full import conditions.
Coffee includes green coffee beans, roasted coffee, and civet or kopi luwak coffee:
- Kopi luwak refers to coffee beans that have been partially digested through the alimentary tract of the Asian palm civet. An import permit is required for commercial consignments of roasted kopi luwak and manufacturing details will need to be provided with the permit application.
- Roasted coffee beans (ground or unground) and green coffee beans ( coffee seed which has had the fruit pulp and seed coat removed) present a substantially lower risk and do not require an import permit.
For full import conditions for coffee, refer to coffee for processing or human consumption in BICON.
Black, green and herbal tea
Tea made purely of Camellia sinensis (black or green tea) is considered to be of minimal biosecurity risk and does not require an import permit or mandatory inspection on arrival.
All other teas are classed as herbal teas. Herbal teas may contain a mixture of dried plant ingredients and may contain high risk ingredients including:
- viable restricted or non-permitted seeds
- material infected with plant or animal pathogens.
The import conditions for herbal teas vary based on the risks associated with the ingredients and their preparation (including whether or not the tea is in teabags).
Some herbal teas will require an import permit. Importers may also need to complete the herbal tea questionnaire and attach it to their import permit application in BICON.Please refer to the BICON case tea for human consumption for full import conditions.
Dried herbs and spices
The biosecurity risks associated with dried herbs and spices vary depending on the species of the plants and how the product has been processed and prepared. For import conditions, refer to these BICON cases as applicable:
- Powdered herbs for human consumption for dried and ground/powdered plant parts including seeds, fruits, herbs, bark and roots.
- Dried herbs for human consumption for dried leaves, flowers, stems, roots, gums, resins and rhizomes.
- Ground or whole peppercorns and pepper for human consumption
- Raw seeds for human consumption for seeds including cumin, fennel, coriander, caraway and mustard seeds.
- Bark for human consumption for bark (excluding powdered bark).
- Preserved fruit and vegetables for human consumption for spice paste.
- Tea for human consumption for herbal teas.
Dietary supplements and natural medicines
The biosecurity risks associated with dietary supplements and natural medicines vary depending on the ingredients and how the product has been processed and prepared.
For full import conditions refer to these BICON cases as applicable:
- Dietary supplements and natural medicines for human consumption for products in the form of capsules, tablets, vials for injection, liquid, powder or ointment.
- Dried medicinal mushrooms
- Powdered herbs and bark for human consumption for products containing Slippery Elm Bark powder.
- Dried herbs for human consumption for natural medicines in the form of dried leaves, flowers, stems, roots, gums, resins and rhizomes.
- Bark for human consumption for natural medicines in the form of bark.
Nuts can present a high biosecurity risk if they are not processed and/or packaged in ways that reduce risks, as they can easily become infested by exotic insect pests such as khapra beetle.
Import conditions for nuts vary depending on the nut type, processing and packaging. Import conditions can be viewed in BICON under the following cases:
- Processed nuts for human consumption
- Raw nuts for human consumption
- Vacuum sealed nuts for human consumption
- Raw almond nuts for human consumption
- Shelled pine nuts for human consumption
- Peanuts for human consumption
- Chestnuts for human consumption
- Coconut (including prayer nuts)
For ground nut meals/fours see processed grains and seed products for human consumption in BICON.
Grains and seeds
Grains and seeds that have not been adequately processed or treated have the potential to introduce pests (such as khapra beetle) or be contaminated with non-permitted or restricted seeds.
To find out which whole grains and whole seeds may be imported and their import conditions, search the Biosecurity Import Conditions system (BICON).
Processed grains and seeds
Biosecurity risks associated with grains and seeds can be significantly reduced by processing the grains and seeds by methods that destroy any potential disease causing organisms.
The term ‘processed grains and seeds’ refers to grain and seed that have been puffed, exploded, rolled or processed into products such as:
- protein flour.
Commonly processed grains and seeds include:
- brown or white rice
Please refer to the BICON case processed grain and seed products for human consumption for full import conditions for these products.
Groats (hulled grains) and kibbled grains (cut or sliced) are subject to different import conditions as these products may still have the germ intact allowing the grain to germinate.
These products may require an import permit. For full import conditions see: