A Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ)’s proposal will consider the development of a primary production and processing (PPP) standard for high-risk horticulture as part of a broader review of Chapter 3 and 4 of the Food Standards Code.
This is in line with the Australian authorities calling for comments on a plan to develop a primary production and processing standard for high-risk horticulture.
The agency will assess if sprouts and ready-to-eat minimally processed fruits and vegetables, which are covered by existing standards in the code, need more consideration as part of review work. Whether a food is determined to be high risk depends on its nature, whether pathogens can grow in it, and how the food is produced and consumed.
Two part process
Mark Booth, FSANZ chief executive officer, said it is looking at primary production and processing activities in leafy vegetables, melons, and berries as there are no consistent, national regulatory food safety requirements applied to these sectors.
“The vast majority of horticultural produce in Australia is safe and healthy, however outbreaks linked to particular produce sectors continue to occur. At the request of ministers responsible for food regulation, FSANZ is reassessing the need to amend the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code to enact a primary production and processing standard to manage food safety for high-risk horticulture.”
Need to reassess food safety risk management
In June 2018, the Australia and New Zealand Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation noted an increase of foodborne illness outbreaks in Australia and agreed there was a need to reassess the food safety risk management of five high risk horticulture sectors: ready to eat, minimally processed fruits and vegetables, fresh leafy green vegetables, melons, berries, and sprouts.
Feedback on an information paper on reviewing the code published in May 2019 showed general support for FSANZ to consider high-risk horticulture and to develop a standard and traceability provisions.
An assessment of foodborne illness backed the assumption that fresh leafy vegetables and herbs, rockmelons (cantaloupes), fresh and semi-dried tomatoes and raspberries were commonly associated with illness. Key contributing risk factors involved in produce contamination included use of pre- and post-harvest water, environmental factors and poor hygienic practices.