Food safety change with deadly implications
New laws will remove the responsibility to report food-related deaths and disease outbreaks for some parties.
Small Business Minister Bruce Billson is pushing a bill that removes the need for food businesses to alert the ACCC when they become aware of safety problems.
Hospitals and doctors would still have to report food-linked illness and death, and Mr Billson says this is enough.
It would mean that when a food product kills a consumer, the producer does not have to do a thing.
Public health experts call the idea “appalling”.
Michael Moore, chief executive of the Public Health Association of Australia, has told Fairfax Media reporters that the move is a sign of the food industry trying to avoid any government interference.
“Having a double check process in place makes good sense,” he said.
“The idea that a manufacturer won't report a death related to their food or illness [to the ACCC] seems appalling to me.”
“Generally in Australia food safety is pretty good, but it's with the food safety regime. Now there is a risk in breaking down that regime.”
In tabling the bill, Mr Billson argued that companies had nothing to gain by telling the ACCC when their products turned out to be toxic or deadly.
“Both the ACCC and Australian food safety regulators consider these reports to be of no added value in regulating the safety of food products,” he said.
“The food industry has informed the Government that this requirement places a disproportionate cost on industry.”
The Australian Food and Grocery Council said reporting food-related deaths and disease is too difficult.
“Mandatory reporting arrangements to the ACCC does not prevent harm, but has generated thousands of false alarms that have resulted in not one actual product recall,” said Gary Dawson, chief executive of the AFGC, told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“One per cent of food-borne illness is caused by packaged food. This reform effectively removes over-reporting of allegations that on investigation have no basis.”