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FSANZ Annual Report Highlights: The Impact of Emerging Food Safety Challenges

January 14, 2024

An annual report produced by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has revealed some of Australia’s most impactful food safety accomplishments from the last 12 months, as well as some ongoing concerns.

Read on to discover key report findings that illustrate Australia's evolving food safety dynamics, including strategies for managing the risks associated with contamination and food-borne illnesses.

Rise in Food Recalls

Last year, Australia witnessed a significant increase in food recalls, with 93 incidents reported, up from 79 the previous year and surpassing the 10-year average. Many of these recalls were due to undeclared allergens and microbial contaminations. Although this uptick in cases is likely to be a result of enhanced food safety vigilance, it also indicates areas that require more stringent oversight.

National Response to Food Safety Incidents

Over the last 12 months, FSANZ has coordinated responses to several high-profile food safety incidents. 

Notably, there were nationwide illnesses linked to poppy seeds containing high levels of thebaine, a naturally occurring but potentially harmful plant chemical. Additionally, nearly 200 people fell ill after consuming spinach contaminated with thornapple, a toxic weed. 

These incidents highlight the complex and often global nature of food safety issues, as well as the need for robust monitoring and quick response mechanisms.

Global Collaboration

FSANZ's role extends beyond Australia, engaging with international counterparts regarding global food safety concerns. The establishment of the Science and Food Safety Dialogue and participation in the International Heads of Food Agencies Forum have strengthened Australia's proactive contribution to the global food safety agenda.

The report also highlights FSANZ's active participation in international food safety networks, including reporting 25 events to the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN). These efforts align with global coordination to manage risks associated with imported and exported food products, such as curry powder, enoki mushrooms, and tahini.

Proactive Food Sampling and Surveillance

FSANZ is taking a proactive approach to food safety in Australia, conducting national surveys to understand the prevalence and levels of various contaminants in food products. From investigating listeria in enoki mushrooms to detecting heavy metals and harmful bacteria in various other foods, these initiatives are critical for the early detection and prevention of food-borne illnesses.

Emerging Food Safety Challenges

From the use of recycled packaging to the rising popularity of cell-based meat, FSANZ is tackling a range of newly emerging issues that could have significant implications for food safety. The focus is not just on current challenges but also on anticipating future risks and opportunities.

Training and Preparedness

Recognising the need for readiness against food safety threats, FSANZ decided to set up training exercises simulating intentional food tampering incidents. These exercises, involving multiple stakeholders, are crucial for assessing and improving Australia's food emergency response capabilities.

Regulatory Updates and Novel Foods

The food industry finds itself in a significant period of change thanks to technological advancements and evolving consumer preferences. FSANZ is at the forefront, assessing applications for novel foods like genetically modified fruits and cell-based food products.

The agency is also helping to improve food safety knowledge through mandatory training requirements set out by Standard 3.2.2A.

Report Summary

FSANZ’s annual report illustrates the dynamic and responsive nature of Australia’s food safety system. While challenges such as increased food recalls and high-profile contamination incidents persist, the agency’s proactive surveillance, international collaboration, and commitment to regulatory evolution provide a robust framework for ensuring the safety and integrity of the food supply chain.

As new challenges emerge, it is clear that FSANZ and its partners are committed to adapting and enhancing Australia's food safety practices.

FSANZ Training Requirements

FSANZ Standard 3.2.2A is designed to ensure that businesses maintain a robust food safety management system. The guidelines mandate Food Handler and Food Safety Supervisor training for food handling, preparation and service establishments.

Food Safety First is a Registered Training Organisation (RTO) authorised to deliver Food Handler and Food Safety Supervisor training programs aligned to the legislative requirements of Standard 3.2.2A.

Ensure compliance with FSANZ Standard 3.2.2A by enrolling with Food Safety First. Contact us today to find out more about our government-approved food safety courses.