Australia has a strong record on food safety and luckily, incidents of contamination of this kind are rare and isolated in Australia’s food safety history.
We need to make sure that we all get behind our farmers, continue to buy Australian produce – cut them up, don’t cut them out.
Consumers need assurance that our strawberry supply is safe. The Federal Government is providing an addition $1 million dollars to put more food safety officials on the ground, to increase detection and fast track recalls when they are requested by State and Territory Governments.
This funding is in addition to the emergency protocols and reporting processes of Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) which is providing continuous updates on the situation.
Queensland Police and Queensland Health continue to lead the investigation into cases of contaminated strawberries.
The penalties for these criminal acts are severe.
Perpetrators will feel the full force of the state laws, and all reported incidents will be investigated by state authorities.
At this stage a consumer level recall has not been initiated. Only state and territory authorities have enforcement powers to mandate, order or force a recall if necessary.
At the Federal level, the national food safety agency, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), assess the handling of strawberry contamination and coordinates recalls with the relevant jurisdictions and food businesses. FSANZ cannot order or initiate recall action, this is the jurisdiction of the states.
This contamination appears to be deliberate sabotage and is primarily a criminal investigation for state police.
The Government commends the police for their work on this matter and urges all Australians to be vigilant for potential contaminants.
Strawberry growers across the country will be feeling the pressure of this incident, with wholesale prices reportedly plummeting to around 33 cents per punnet, well below the cost of production, due to lost consumer confidence.
This is why we as consumers can use our buying power to support the half a billion dollar strawberry industry.
We have all shown massive support for our primary industries in times of drought and I have every confidence that the public will show the same faith in our strawberry industry by continuing to buy fruit.
Listen to Ted’s speech in support of the Criminal Code Amendment (Food Contamination) Bill 2018 to toughen laws against those who contaminate our food.