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Australian Seafood Gets Tough at the Border

AUSTRALIA - Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service has updated its border testing of imported seafood

The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) tests imported seafood for the presence of antimicrobial chemicals at the rate of 5% of consignments to monitor compliance with the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code).

This testing program is in addition to testing for food classified as risk by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ). The rates of inspection of risk food and for compliance monitoring are prescribed by the Imported Food Control Act 1992.

AQIS has tested imported prawns for nitrofurans and chloramphenicol since 2003. In 2005, AQIS introduced testing for malachite green as part of the routine sampling of imported aquaculture fish. In the 2006 calendar year, imported seafood tested for these antimicrobial compounds showed above 95% compliance with the Code.

Testing imported seafood for the above chemicals was introduced following information from domestic findings, including a number of Australian surveys that detected antimicrobial chemicals, such as:

  • A 2005 FSANZ-led national survey of chemical residues in aquaculture fish which tested for a range of veterinary residues such as nitrofurans, chloramphenicol, sulphonamides, tetracyclines, penicillins, macrolides, and quinolones, and also for polychlorinated biphenyls and a number of heavy metals. This survey found that residues of these veterinary chemicals in aquaculture fish were generally compliant with the Code except for residues of malachite green and/or its metabolite leuco-malachite green in some domestically produced finfish and imported seafood.

  • A 2005 survey in South Australia which detected low levels of chloramphenicol in some imported crab meat.

In 2006, there were concerns that other chemicals may be present in seafood, particularly in farmed seafood, and testing would need to be broadened to cover other chemicals. Of particular concern was the possible occurrence of veterinary compounds that are of critical importance in human medicine.

To investigate whether new chemicals needed to be added to the testing program, AQIS conducted a snapshot survey of antimicrobial and pesticide chemicals in imported seafood.

AQIS has reviewed its antimicrobial screen applied to imported seafood.

In September 2007, AQIS decided to add, for a trial period of six months, three additional antimicrobial chemicals (fluoroquinolones, quinolones and penicillin) to its existing screen for imported seafood, which tested for nitrofurans and malachite green. This testing occurs under the random surveillance program in which it randomly tests 5% of imported seafood.

AQIS introduced the extra three chemicals following its small survey of chemical residues in imported seafoods, which it carried out between 2006 and 2007 (see Food Surveillance News Spring 2007).

The purpose of the 2006/07 survey was to provide a snapshot of chemical residues in imported seafood to check if the testing program was up-to-date. It found one or more antimicrobial chemicals in some imported seafood, prompting AQIS to test for the additional antimicrobials over the next six months to gather more information.