Speech - GS1 Recallnet Launch
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11 August 2011
- Kate Carnell CEO of the AFGC
- Maria Palazzolo of GS1 Australia
- Acknowledge meeting on the land of the Wan-gal and Dharug people
I would like to acknowledge the Wan-gal and Dharug traditional custodians of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to their elders, both past and present.
I would like to thank Kate Carnell CEO of the AFGC and Maria Palazzolo of GS1 Australia for inviting me here today to launch the new GS1 Recallnet web portal.
I am also pleased to see here today members of the AFGC and the major retailers as well as Mr Peter Kell, the Deputy Chair of the ACCC and Mr Steve McCutcheon, the CEO of FSANZ.
Australia is lucky to have one of the safest food systems in the world however, on rare occasions, things can go wrong and each year there are an average of 70 food recalls.
However, unlike many other countries where food recalls are often as the result of illness, recalls in Australia are far more likely to be carried out as a precaution by food companies.
In many cases recalls are invisible to the consumer as they occur at the trade level and the food is recalled even before it reaches the supermarket shelves or the consumer themselves.
Recalls can be carried out for a number of reasons. In a 10 year period, between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2010, FSANZ was notified of 711 food recalls.
These recalls were for a variety of safety reasons such as microbial contamination and labelling errors.
37% of the total number of food recalls during this period resulted from companies failing to declare one or more allergen on the label.
Despite public and media perceptions, over the past 10 years tampering and packaging faults are the least common reasons for initiating a food recall.
Formall recalls do not necessarily pertain only to safety issues, but also due to quality issues, which do not necessarily require FSANZ to be notified.
GS1 Recallnet will speed up and ensure consistency of both the recall and withdrawal process.
Strong food safety standards have been in place for many years requiring all food businesses to have a food recall plan that can be easily followed on those rare occasions when there could be a recall.
Recalls, as you know, are coordinated by FSANZ for which I am responsible.
FSANZ recall staff are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to assist large and small companies with recalls and there is also a raft of practical information on the FSANZ website.
As Steve McCutcheon mentioned in his presentation earlier, GS1 Recallnet links in well with the new food recall system rolled out in March 2011 which was developed in response to internal and external audits.
I am pleased to see that FSANZ is also using new media such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to get out urgent messages about food recalls to consumers.
I also recognise the important role played by consumer allergy groups such as Anaphylaxis Australia who get out important recall messages to families with allergies
FSANZ and the Office of Health Protection in the Department of Health and Ageing play an important role in the National Food Incident Response Protocol.
This Protocol is instituted when there is a more serious safety incident that spans across a number of States and Territories and is more complex than an everyday recall or withdrawal.
The Australian States and Territories and other Australian Government agencies, such as the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, are also key players in the Incident Protocol.
Many of your organisations here today are members of the Retailers and Manufacturers Liaison Committee which is chaired by FSANZ and recognised in the Incident Protocol for its important communication role.
In the last 12 months, the Incident Protocol has been used for incidents such as undeclared drugs in coffee and slimming products, contamination of soy flour with peanut and the food safety of products imported from Japan.
An efficient and effective food recall and withdrawal system is an essential component of the Incident Protocol.
We all agree that it is vital that these recalls and withdrawals are carried out as speedily as possible.
The Australian Government welcomes the new GS1 Recallnet which will move recalls and withdrawals from a paper based system to an electronic system.
Making the system more efficient is particularly important because, as FSANZ staff tell me, many recalls seem to occur at 5pm on a Friday or just before a long weekend!
I am pleased to see that GS1 Recallnet was developed in collaboration with FSANZ and the ACCC and that it has already been trialled successfully with 15 manufacturers and retailers.
The portal will enable food product information on a food recall to be sent to FSANZ electronically.
This food product information will then be used by FSANZ to develop information about the recall for dissemination to government, industry and consumers as part of their statutory role in coordinating national food recalls.
I note that the portal also links with similar systems overseas and there are 108 GS1 member companies operating over 147 countries.
This is important as food is traded rapidly around the world and many recalls and withdrawals are linked to food imported from other countries, as we saw with the melamine in milk contamination in 2007.
The Australian Government is committed to being a food safety leader in the APEC region. In May this year FSANZ co-chaired the APEC Food Safety Cooperation Forum with China.
One of the key outcomes of the workshop was the establishment of a Food Safety Incident Network amongst APEC member economies which will lead to a faster exchange of information and adoption of best practice approaches to help respond when food safety emergencies arise reducing negative effects on both trade and public health.
I congratulate everyone involved in bringing this project to fruition and would hope food manufacturers and retailers register with GS1 Recallnet.
Thank you for inviting me to speak today and it now gives me great pleasures to formally launch GS1 Recallnet.
For all inquiries, contact the Parliamentary Secretary's office 02 6277 4230
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