The number of food recalls in Australia has gone up while several food safety projects and regulations are being worked on, according to FSANZ’s annual report.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) published 93 food recalls in 2022–23, up from 79 in 2021–22 and above the 10-year average of 79. The most significant portion was attributed to undeclared allergens and microbial issues. A total of 79 post-recall reports were received.

The agency coordinated national responses to food incidents related to thebaine toxicity linked to poppy seeds and toxic weed contamination in spinach.

In late 2022, almost 40 illnesses were reported nationwide in people who consumed poppy seeds. The problem was seeds not intended for food use and containing high levels of thebaine, a naturally occurring plant chemical, had entered the supply chain. Nearly 200 people fell sick after eating a brand of spinach contaminated with a weed called thornapple. The scientific name is Datura stramonium, also known as jimsonweed.

Sampling surveys
In 2022–23, FSANZ reported 25 events to the International Food Safety Authorities Network (INFOSAN), including recalls of products imported into Australia and exported to other countries. These included curry powder, enoki mushrooms, and tahini recalled because of microbial contamination.

FSANZ reported 16 incidents to states and territories following the European Commission’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF) notifications. They included unauthorized substances, foreign material in foods and biotoxin contamination.

FSANZ is involved in a national survey investigating the prevalence and levels of Listeria in enoki mushrooms. Food sampling was undertaken from April to June 2023 in all states and territories where the product is available. Results are expected by early 2024.

Other work includes heavy metals and patulin in apple juice and other apple products, antimicrobial-resistant bacteria in food, and pyrrolizidine alkaloids in 60 honeys and teas/herbal infusions.

In June 2022, FSANZ organized a training exercise to test the effectiveness of a protocol in responding to an intentional tampering incident. Participants included representatives from food enforcement agencies, industry, and police.

Food law changes
From 2022 to 2023, FSANZ received applications for two new foods not previously assessed – one for a genetically modified whole fruit and another for a cell-based food. FSANZ is assessing an application from Vow Group Pty to allow cultured quail as a novel food ingredient. A call for public comment is expected in 2023 or 2024.

Businesses in the food service sector will need to implement two or three food safety management tools beginning in December 2023 based on their food handling activities. Work is also progressing on a standard for egg food safety and primary production requirements. A public comment period is set for late 2023.

FSANZ established the Science and Food Safety Dialogue to build government collaboration among food safety and risk assessment agencies in the Asia-Pacific region. The first meeting was held in April 2023 in Singapore. Australia also attended the International Heads of Food Agencies Forum (IHFAF) meeting in Ireland. IHFAF has 16 country members, including Codex, the FAO, and WHO.

Emerging issues considered by FSANZ included the use of recycled packaging, cell-based meat, and Listeria in enoki mushrooms.

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