Cheese in which growth of Listeria monocytogenes can occur

Reference CHE 07-2018.

Biosecurity requirements

All imported food must comply with Australia’s biosecurity import conditions. Check the Biosecurity Import Conditions database (BICON) to determine if the food you intend to import requires an import permit or a treatment or if it must meet any other conditions. All biosecurity requirements must be met before the Imported Food Control Act 1992 requirements apply.

Imported Food Inspection Scheme

Cheese which supports the growth of Listeria monocytogenes is classified as a risk food. Cheese which does not support the growth of Listeria monocytogenes is classified as a surveillance food.

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Community Protection (CP) question

The department asks the following CP question to make it easier to determine if the cheese supports the growth of Listeria monocytogenes:

‘IFIS: Is the cheese covered by an ‘Imported Food Inspection Scheme–importer declaration for cheese that does not support the growth of Listeria monocytogenes’? Search ‘Importer declarations’ at www.awe.gov.au for more information.’

The department will monitor the answers to this CP question. Consistent with the department’s minimum document requirements policy, it is expected that importers and brokers will maintain records of the information used to substantiate answers to CP questions. The department may require brokers and importers to present this information upon request for compliance or verification activities. Giving false or misleading information is a serious offence.

Imported Food Inspection Scheme (IFIS) Importer declaration

Importers and brokers have the option to lodge a voluntary ‘Imported Food Inspection Scheme–importer declaration for cheese that does not support the growth of Listeria monocytogenes’. This declaration enables importers to provide information on why the cheese does not support the growth of Listeria monocytogenes.

Cheese lodged with this declaration is classified as a ‘surveillance cheese’ and is randomly referred for inspection and analysis at a rate of 5%. If referred for inspection and analysis, this cheese will be analysed against the standard of no more than 100 colony forming units of Listeria monocytogenes per gram. Surveillance cheese is released after inspection before results of analysis have been reported to the department.

The ‘Imported Food Inspection Scheme–importer declaration for cheese that does not support the growth of Listeria monocytogenes’ is available from the ‘Lodging declarations and documentation for imported food’ webpage.

The completed importer declaration is valid for a year from the date it is signed by the importer. Giving false or misleading information in an importer declaration is a serious offence.

Food in which the growth of Listeria monocytogenes will not occur

To assist importers in completing the ‘Imported Food Inspection Scheme–importer declaration for cheese that does not support the growth of Listeria monocytogenes’, the department’s criteria are that cheese in which the growth of Listeria monocytogenes will not occur is food that has one or more of the following parameters:

  • the cheese has a pH less than 4.4 regardless of water activity.
  • the cheese has a water activity less than 0.92 regardless of pH.
  • the cheese has a pH less than 5.0 in combination witha water activity of less than 0.94.
  • the cheese has a refrigerated shelf life no greater than 5 days (includes frozen cheese that has a refrigerated shelf life of no greater than 5 days once thawed).
  • the level of Listeria monocytogenes will not increase by greater than 0.5 log cfu/g over the stated shelf life of the cheese.

The department expects that importers maintain records of the information used in IFIS Importer declarations to justify answers to lodgement questions. Consignment specific information may not be necessary if the importer has documentation that the manufacturing process produces food that always meets one or more of the above criteria. The department may require that importers present this information upon request for compliance or verification activities.

Clearance

The table below provides the tests applied and permitted results for cheese based on whether the goods are accompanied by an ‘Imported Food Inspection Scheme – importer declaration for cheese that does not support the growth of Listeria monocytogenes’.

CP question: ‘IFIS: Is the cheese covered by an ‘Imported Food Inspection Scheme–importer declaration for cheese that does not support the growth of Listeria monocytogenes’? Search ‘Importer declarations’ at www.awe.gov.au for more information.’

Test applied Permitted result

Yes1

Listeria monocytogenes

n = 5, c = 0, m = 100 cfu/g

No

Listeria monocytogenes

n = 5, c = 0, m = not detected2 in 25g

n = the minimum number of sample units which must be examined from a lot of food.
c = the maximum allowable number of defective sample units.
m = the acceptable microbiological level in a sample unit.

1 If the cheese is not accompanied by an ‘Importer declaration for cheese that does not support the growth of Listeria monocytogenes’, the cheese will be analysed and must not contain any detectable Listeria monocytogenes in five 25 gram samples.
2 The department allows appointed analysts to composite the five cheese samples when the ‘not detected’ standard applies. This may result in reduced testing costs for importers.

Importers may request a review of a decision within the legislated timeframe for such reviews. If such a review requires re-sampling and re-analysis of samples then this will occur at the importer’s expense. A non-compliant result, on its own, is not justification for a review or re-analysis.

Imports from New Zealand

Imports of this food from New Zealand will not be inspected or analysed under the Imported Food Inspection Scheme. This is because Australia and New Zealand have agreed to mutual recognition for the food safety controls for this food.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) advice on imported food

FSANZ provides advice to the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment on whether foods pose a medium or high risk to public health. The risk statements supporting the advice is published on the FSANZ website.

Version history

Date Amendment details
10/07/2018 CHE 07-2018 Amendments to introduce a voluntary IFIS Importer declaration.
08/03/2017 CHE 03-2017 Amends guidance to industry on lodging entries.
21/07/2016 CHE 07-2016 Clarified parameters for cheese in which the growth of Listeria monocytogenes will not occur. Provided guidance to industry on lodging entries for cheese in the Integrated Cargo System.
09/05/2016 CHE 05-2016 Changes the description of the food from ‘Soft, semi-soft and fresh cheese’ to ‘Cheese in which growth of Listeria monocytogenes can occur’.
Tests are no longer applied for E. coli and Salmonella.
01/05/2014 CHE 05-2014 Replaces Imported Food Notice 09/12 Tests applied to risk category foods
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Last reviewed: 29 September 2020
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