Last updated: 9 October 2020
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 and the Imported Food Control Regulations 2019. 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, Water and the Environment (DAWE).
Under the Food Standards Australia New Zealand Act 1991, FSANZ provides risk assessment advice to DAWE 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, Water and the Environment 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 is responsible for inspecting and sampling imported foods to ensure they comply with the Code. Read more about our risk assessment advice.
We suggest you refer to the DAWE website for the information you require.
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 DAWE 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 DAWE. 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 DAWE.
More information about imported food inspection, including details about the frequency of inspection is published in DAWE'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.