IFN 07-18 - Food sampling under the Imported Food Inspection Scheme

​Issued: 18 July 2018​


To provide importers with information about the sampling of food for testing under the Imported Food Inspection Scheme (IFIS).

This notice provides detail:

  • to importers about the amount of food required to be sampled, and
  • to request assistance from importers when sampling large and/or frozen, oversized food items.


This notice applies to the following:

  • all food importers whose food has been referred for inspection to check its safety and compliance with Australian food standards.

Sampling process

When food is referred to the IFIS, it may be inspected and sampled. Some food is subject to analytical testing by laboratories known as ‘appointed analysts’.

The sample selected for testing must be representative of the particular type of food that has been referred for inspection and this is known as a batch. A batch of food is food that is manufactured and packaged in a distinct manner.

Within a batch, there may be multiple lots of food. A lot, means a quantity of food that is prepared or packed under the same conditions within a specific time period.

The number of lots per batch that are sampled depends on whether the food is risk food or surveillance food and how many lots are imported. For risk food, the officer must sample from every batch of food. For surveillance food, samples are taken from across all batches based on the required number of lots/batches of food that are to be sampled as detailed in the Imported Food Control Regulations 1993.

To determine how to sample a consignment referred for inspection, the authorised officer will consider how many different batches of food are in the consignment. Different size packs (for example 100g and 500g portions of the same type of cheese), different package types (for example tuna in tins, pouches or plastic cups) or different manufacturing processes (for example whole legs of ham or packaged sliced ham) may result in products being considered as different batches.

In general, the department requires 500 grams per lot of food, which is typically made up of five by 100 gram samples.

An authorised officer may take greater amounts of samples or from more lots if they deem it necessary to do so. If you require more information, please discuss this with the officer at the time of inspection or contact the food safety manager.

Sampling procedure for oversized and/or frozen food

In the interest of efficiency, reduction in work, health and safety incidents to departmental officers engaged in repetitive inspections of this nature and to reduce the inspection cost for importers, the department is requesting assistance to take samples from oversized and/or frozen food. Examples of oversized and/or frozen food are large wheels of cheese, frozen whole tuna or meat products.

The department will request assistance from importers via comments on the Food Control Certificate (FCC). Importers are requested to provide a representative to take the required samples under the direction/supervision of the authorised officer.

When sampling oversized and/or large frozen food items the department’s authorised officer will:

  • specify the number and size of each sample to be taken,
  • identify which cartons/packages of food are required to be sampled,
  • observe the removal of each sub-sample and assist with the placement of each sub-sample into the sample bag,
  • place the bagged samples into the tamper evident bag,
  • ensure the sample is labelled correctly.

The importer or the importer’s representative will:

  • take the required samples under the direction/supervision of the authorised officer, which may require the use of tools to cut the food to obtain sub-samples,
  • place each sub-sample into a sample bag under the supervision of the authorised officer.

The authorised officer will take possession of the bagged sample and ensure that the sample is labelled correctly and delivered to the nominated laboratory’s courier service.

Definitions from the Imported Food Control Regulations 1993


Food of a particular kind that comprises one or more batches imported by the same owner at the same time and described by a single line in an import entry.


Food of a particular kind made or packed in a distinct manner which may include one or more lots.


A quantity of food of a particular kind prepared or packed under essentially the same conditions (ordinarily from a particular preparation or package unit and during a particular time usually not exceeding 24 hours).


A container of food that is not separated from the food by any intervening covering except lining material.

Other definitions

Risk food

Food that has been assessed by FSANZ as representing a medium to high potential risk to consumer health.

Risk food is initially referred to the department by the Department of Home Affairs, Integrated Cargo System for inspection at the rate of 100 per cent of consignments. The rate of inspection reduces as a history of compliance is established. After five consecutive consignments pass inspection, the inspection rate reduces to 25 per cent; after a further 20 consecutive passes, the inspection rate reduces to five per cent.

Surveillance food

Food that is not considered a medium to high risk is called surveillance food under the Imported Food Control Regulations 1993.

Surveillance food is subject to inspection at the rate of five per cent of consignments.

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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