AUSVEG today backed calls by the Australian National Audit
Office (ANAO) for a more immediate and thorough response to food recalls
following repeated risks to public health.

In two separate incidents in 2009, one of which concerned the
revelation that sun-dried tomatoes potentially affected by hepatitis A were
available on the market, large amounts of produce potentially posing health
risks to Australian consumers were unable to be recalled after proving

AUSVEG is the national peak industry body representing the
interests of over 9,000 Australian vegetable and potato growers.

AUSVEG Communications and Public Affairs Manager Hugh Tobin
said that AUSVEG was deeply concerned by the incident on Melbourne Cup day 2009
after it was unable to contact health officials in relation to the outbreak in
sun-dried tomatoes.

“Repeated calls regarding the matter were made. While AUSVEG
does not currently represent tomato growers, an outbreak of any kind in the
vegetable industry is concerning. A more thorough and prompt response to
matters such as this would not only better protect the safety of the Australian
public, but also our growers,” said Mr Tobin.

A performance audit in FSANZ was released by the ANAO on 18
November 2010, in which it raised concerns regarding the incidents.

Despite FSANZ’s role to coordinate and monitor food recalls
within Australia in consultation with health authorities and the relevant
product’s manufacturer or importer, both instances were treated as ‘trade-level
recalls’ rather than ‘consumer recalls’ and while trade recalls focus on
recovering products from distributors or wholesalers, consumer recalls recover
the product from all points in the production and distribution chain.

As a result, it was reported that 55 per cent and 70 per cent
of the potentially infected products from these two instances were not
recovered from retail outlets because they could not be traced, and may have
continued to be available to consumers.

“Due to strict food production regulations, Australian growers
have a reputation for providing some of the safest, freshest produce available
in the world,” said Mr Tobin.

“A more effective recall system would ensure these matters
were dealt with efficiently, protecting public health and allowing the
vegetable industry to continue to provide food to Australian families,” said Mr

MEDIA CONTACT: Hugh Tobin, Communications and Public
Affairs Manager, AUSVEG
Phone: (03) 9822 0388, Mobile: 0431 939 920, Email: