FSANZ seeks horticultural food safety feedback
The paper acknowledges Australia's speed in implementing safety measures, but questions whether they provide a sufficient approach to food safety across the entire sector.
"FSANZ intends to consult as widely as possible as it progresses its work in this area. We acknowledge that there are a large number of growers, packers, wholesalers and industry bodies as well as other non-industry stakeholders that will wish to contribute," the document said.
"The majority of growers and processors already have food safety schemes in place on their farms and/or in their processing facilities. We estimate that about 75% of farmers are covered by a scheme such as Freshcare or Woolworths Quality Assured.
"These existing schemes, which have a certification component, already place a cost burden on producers. This means that farmers who are doing the right thing in ensuring the safety of their fresh produce have higher costs than farmers who do not have a comprehensive food safety scheme."
The document highlighted additional measures may be needed for commodities that are grown using one or two 'risk activities', such as food handling, biological fertilizers, water usage and environmental management.
"For example, some commodities are grown in soil fertilised using manures, are picked by hand, are washed by processors and are often consumed raw (e.g. lettuce, carrots).
"Other commodities may be grown on bushes and not in the soil (e.g. berries) but involve significant food handling. If these commodities were contaminated (on the farm, by a food handler, by non-potable wash water) the consumer may be at increased risk of food-borne illness.
"Australian data on the outbreaks of foodborne illness associated with horticultural produce indicate that Salmonella and noroviruses were suspected or identified as being responsible for the majority of recorded outbreaks.
The paper acknowledged the health risks of such illnesses from the consumption of leafy greens, fresh herbs and fruit.
"We are seeking your input on the information and issues raised in this discussion paper. We will then consider all the views, information and data provided to us. We will start to identify the different activities that pose a risk to horticultural produce, as well as how these risks could be reduced."