MAA 2020-18: China: Dairy: Border measures

Date of issue: 19 June 2020

Date of effect: Immediate

Previous advice: MAA2020-17


  • Industries—Industry bodies - Dairy Australia, Dairy Export Industry Consultative Committee
  • Export establishments
  • Licensed exporters
  • Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment —Central and Regional offices


To notify exporters of the potential for border testing of dairy exports to China for viral agent responsible for coronavirus (COVID-19).

Summary of key points

  • This Market Access Advice (MAA) provides advice to exporters of the potential for border testing of dairy exports to China for the viral agent responsible for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and on potential requests for additional guarantees regarding the safety of exported milk and milk products.
  • Further to MAA 2020-17 notifying exporters of a report of new COVID-19 cases in Beijing, the department has received further information from industry sources in relation to border measures for imported seafood, and meat that may also affect dairy products.
  • It has been reported that imported seafood and meat products, including packaging, is being tested for the presence of the viral agent responsible for COVID-19. This may also extend to other animal protein sources such as dairy. Imported goods subject to the testing are reportedly held at the port of entry until testing confirms a negative result, resulting in delays to the clearance process. These delays are reported as one to two days. The department is seeking official confirmation of border testing and continues to monitor the situation.
  • In addition, the department has also received advice from exporters that Chinese authorities are seeking declarations from Australian export establishments, in the form of a Letter of Guarantee that the seafood or meat exported complies with China’s laws, regulations and standards and the World Health Organization (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) advice on ‘COVID-19 and food safety: guidance for food businesses’. The Letter of Guarantee further requires establishments to take all necessary measures to eliminate food safety risks and protect consumer health and safety if cases or suspected cases of COVID-19 are detected at the establishment.
  • The General Administration of Customs of China (GACC) has also requested the department note the WHO and FAO advice on ‘COVID-19 and food safety: guidance for food businesses’ and provide assurances on managing food safety during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The department is responding promptly to GACC to provide relevant assurances. Given this and existing export certification arrangements, Australia’s national response addresses the requirements for a Letter of Guarantee.
  • Therefore, export establishments are discouraged from providing additional guarantees. Australia’s strict controls over the production of seafood and meat products remain in place and food exported from Australia is safe and does not present a risk from novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). In writing to GACC, the department will also be seeking GACC’s agreement that Australian export establishments are not required to sign the Letter of Guarantee.  
  • The department reiterates that there is no scientific evidence of transmission of COVID-19 through food and agricultural products or packaging. Food Standards Australia New Zealand, along with other international regulators (including the European Food Safety Authority) have issued statements supporting this position. Additionally, the WHO has issued precautionary recommendations relating to the transmission of the virus, including advice on good hygiene practices during food handling and preparation.
  • The department understands that the situation is subject to change, and therefore urges exporters to work closely with their importers prior to dispatching consignments.
  • Further updates will be provided as these become available.

Further information

Contact Export Standards if you have any queries.

The information provided in this advice is current at the time of writing and is intended for use as guidance only and should not be taken as definitive or exhaustive. The Commonwealth endeavours to keep information current and accurate, however, it may be subject to change without notice. Exporters are encouraged to verify these details with their importers prior to undertaking production/exports. The Commonwealth will not accept liability for any loss resulting from reliance on information contained in this notice.

Last reviewed: 19 June 2020
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