Food-related deaths and outbreaks no longer reported to ACCC

Food-related deaths and disease outbreaks will no longer have to be reported to the consumer watchdog by product makers and sellers under new federal laws.

Small Business Minister Bruce Billson pushed a bill on Wednesday to remove the need for food businesses to alert the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission when they become aware of safety problems, The Sydney Morning Herald reports.

He said state and territory laws required hospitals and doctors to report food-linked illness and death, and that this was enough.

"In addition to these requirements, the [law] requires all participants in the supply chain for a product to report to the ACCC any incident associated with a death, serious injury or illness within two days of becoming aware of any incident," he said.

"Both the ACCC and Australian food safety regulators consider these reports to be of no added value in regulating the safety of food products. The food industry has informed the Government that this requirement places a disproportionate cost on industry."

The Australian Food and Grocery Council welcomed the cutting of red tape, saying the "outdated" rules did nothing to improve food safety. Instead, it had created overlap and complexity for manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers.

"Mandatory reporting arrangements to the ACCC does not prevent harm, but has generated thousands of false alarms that have resulted in not one actual product recall," said Gary Dawson, chief executive of the AFGC.

"One per cent of food-borne illness is caused by packaged food. This reform effectively removes over-reporting of allegations that on investigation have no basis."

A NSW Food Authority spokeswoman said public health and safety were not being compromised by the federal government.

"The removal of this requirement does not impact on the NSW Food Authority's operations," she said. "Consumers can continue to have confidence and certainty in the authority's ability to mitigate food safety risks."

An Australian Competition and Consumer Commission spokesman told The Sydney Morning Herald he could not provide comment until the laws were passed, referring all inquiries to Mr Billson's office.


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