Suitability assessment under the Imported Food Control Act

This page explains the rationale for the application of a suitability assessment to the approval of a Food Import Compliance Agreement under the Imported Food Control Act 1992.

Food Import Compliance Agreements (FICA)

Section 35A of the Imported Food Control Act 1992 (IFC Act) provides for the Commonwealth to enter into an agreement with a person in connection with several activities. These being:

  • application of particular procedures for food being imported
  • keeping of records as evidence of compliance with those procedures
  • supervision, monitoring and testing of the person’s compliance with those procedures.

A FICA is an agreement which allows for decreased regulatory compliance costs. Our decision to enter into a FICA depends on:

  • whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that the FICA will ensure the compliance of food imported into Australia with Australian food standards
  • the requirements of public health and safety.

This is a requirement of significant trust and responsibility. Accordingly, our policy is to ensure that a FICA is entered into only with entities that have demonstrated capability to meet appropriate verification and compliance requirements.

This requires the person responsible for the FICA and any authorised personnel conducting activities under the FICA to be trustworthy, show an ability to comply with requirements, and a capability to undertake agreed procedures that give effect to the FICA. It is important we have confidence that the person and their authorised personnel will operate within the scope of their approval and comply with conditions and requirements.

To enable the applicant to demonstrate these capabilities, we request applicants answer a series of questions on compliance history, outstanding debts and other relevant matters.

Failure to comply with other relevant regulatory requirements is likely to be a relevant matter in deciding whether to enter into a FICA. In particular, we consider:

  • records of compliance with regulations governing import and export of goods
  • food safety and standards
  • offences relating to trust and verification.

Relevant statutes include the Imported Food Control Act 1992, the Biosecurity Act 2015, the Quarantine Act 1908, the Export Control Act 1982, and the Customs Act 1901.

The refusal of an application or suspension of an approval related to food or biosecurity matters (such as a permit, an approved arrangement, an export registration, a FICA or a food business registration or license) also provides information relevant to the ability of the person to comply with FICA requirements.

Outstanding debt to the Commonwealth may also be considered, as an ability to meet debts incurred under legislation is important in the management and administration of the FICA.

Evidence of failure to comply, refusal of other relevant approvals or outstanding debt is not determinative in deciding whether to enter into a FICA. The Secretary, or their delegate, will make a decision based on all relevant circumstances. This includes the nature of the risk and the context of the activities in which the person is or will be engaged.

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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