Will New Food Safety Reporting Laws Lead to Cover Ups?

A new federal law states that food-related outbreaks and deaths no longer need to be reported to the ACCC by product makers and sellers.
March 26, 2015

Public health experts have been expressing both support and outrage recently, in response to a new law which dictates that food-related outbreaks and deaths no longer need to be reported to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

According to Bruce Billson, Minister for Small Business, the fact that territory and state laws already require doctors and hospitals to report food-related deaths and illnesses should be enough to maintain high standards.

Will the New Law Cover up Food-Related Incidents?

The "outdated" law currently requires all participants within a supply chain for a food product to report safety issues including illness, serious injury, or death to the ACCC within two days of an incident taking place.

Both Australian food safety regulators and the ACCC do not believe that these reports offer any added value in regulating food safety, according to Mr. Billson. As a result, the food industry has reported that this requirement could be placing a disproportionate cost on business owners.

The Australian Food and Grocery Council suggested that the move was a useful step forward, noting that the traditional rules were not doing anything to improve the state of food safety within Australia. Rather, they suggested that the old rules did nothing but create complexities and overlaps for wholesalers, manufacturers, and retailers. Gary Dawson, the executive chief of the AFGC, noted that "Mandatory reporting arrangements to the ACCC does not prevent harm".

The Alternative Perspective

Despite positivity from one side of the food sector, other experts have determined the move to be an "appalling" act, suggesting that the food industry is simply looking for a way to remove all interference by the government.

Michael Moore, the chief executive for the Public Health Association of Australia, drew attention to the recent frozen berry scandal in his argument that a double-checking process only makes sense.

Although food safety in Australia is generally regarded to be of a relatively high standard, some regard this standard to be a side-effect of the stringent food safety regimes in place. Experts are concerned that if that regime begins to break down, the quality of Australia's food safety practices will also begin to crumble.