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Imported foods

(December 2016)

Foods imported into Australia must comply with strict biosecurity requirements and the Food Standards Code. Food importers are responsible for ensuring that all food they import complies with the relevant standards in the Code.

Imported Food Inspection Scheme

Food entering Australia is subject to the Imported Food Control Act 1992. Under this legislation imported food is inspected and controlled using a risk-based border inspection program called the Imported Food Inspection Scheme, which is administered by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

Under the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991, FSANZ provides risk assessment advice to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources on foods that pose a medium to high risk to public health and safety. In addition to advice provided on risk category foods, FSANZ also provides risk assessment advice to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in response to formal requests.  From time-to-time, FSANZ may also provide advice in other circumstances (e.g. in response to a national food safety incident). The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is responsible for inspecting and sampling imported foods to ensure they comply with the Code. Read more about our risk assessment advice. 

As with all countries, it is not practical to inspect every imported food item. What food is inspected and how often it’s inspected is based on risk assessments and information gathered on different foods.

There are three classifications for foods coming into Australia:

Risk food  After conducting a risk assessment, FSANZ provides advice to the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources on foods that pose a medium to high risk to public health. These are known as 'risk foods', which are inspected and tested against a pre-determined list of potential hazards including microbial and chemical hazards.

Surveillance food  All other foods that are not risk foods are in this category as they are considered to pose a low risk to public health and safety. Foods in this category are normally inspected at a lower rate than risk-categorised food. However, this inspection rate is increased if a surveillance food fails inspection.

Compliance agreement food  Food importers are able to enter into a Food Import Compliance Agreement with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources. This arrangement offers food importers an alternative to inspection and testing of their products at the border. The agreement is an assurance-based regulatory arrangement undertaken through formal recognition and audit of and importer’s food safety management system by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

More information about imported food inspection, including details about the frequency of inspection is published in the Department of Agriculture and Water Resource's Imported Food Notices.

State and territory agencies

State and territory departments and agencies are responsible for enforcing the Code. Complaints about potentially non-compliant food, including imported food can be directed to your relevant state or territory agency.

More information

FSANZ advice on imported food

Enforcement agencies

Department of Agriculture and Water Resources (or call 1800 020 504)

Australia’s safe food system

Importing food from New Zealand

Annex with the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources on imported food​​

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