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No extra food safety checks after Hep A outbreak

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 23 Feb 2015

Under questioning by Greens Senator Rachel Siewert, the Department of Agriculture has confirmed berries being imported to Australia are not being subjected to any extra safety checks, in spite of contaminated products sparking an outbreak of Hepatitis A.

Department of Agriculture Secretary Dr Paul Grimes has told a Senate Estimates hearing this morning, "We have not made changes on surveillance rates broadly at this stage."

Senator Siewert has described that as a completely ludicrous failure.

"It is clear that our border protection is sluggishly reactive rather than preventative when it comes to keeping imported products safe. This is not very assuring for any Australian consumer," said Senator Siewert.

"The current regime failed in preventing the contaminated product entering the country in the first place, the Government is not moving quickly enough to prevent further potential infection."

Greens Leader Christine Milne told the hearing the community has been let down, especially as contaminated berries had already been linked to a Hepatitis A outbreak in Europe.

"We've got a whole ministerial office and bureaucracy that's meant to be looking at biosecurity and keeping Australians healthy and protected from contaminated imports.

"Surely we don't have to wait for something bad to happen when we know there are problems with particular produce in other parts of the world."

Senator Milne says better country of origin food labelling is an opportunity for consensus in Australian politics this week.

"Everyone agrees we need better food labelling to protect consumers and support farmers. The Greens' bill is ready to go and the consultation has been exhaustive. Let's get this done," Senator Milne said.


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