Tougher food import controls pass Senate
Australian authorities will be given greater powers to stop unsafe foods from entering the country, three years after dozens of people contracted hepatitis from imported frozen berries.
Legislation cleared parliament on Tuesday - more than a year after being introduced to parliament, prompted by a 2015 hepatitis A outbreak which infected more than 30 people.
The measures will allow authorities to hold food at the border if there are reasonable grounds to suspect it poses a serious risk to human health.
Importers will have to ensure the food they bring in is safe, or face hefty penalties - including up to 10 years' jail for some offences.
One of the requirements will be that they have internationally-recognised food safety controls in place throughout the supply.
Assistant Agriculture Minister Richard Colbeck said importers would continue to be able to source quality ingredients from around the world under the new regime.
"The bill will strengthen Australia's imported food safety management system, enabling Australians to continue to enjoy a wide range of safe and quality food from around the world," Senator Colbeck told parliament.
Greens senator Janet Rice criticised how long the government had taken to pass the legislation.
"It's only by a stroke of luck we haven't had another crisis," she said.
Crossbencher David Leyonhjelm unsuccessfully tried to change the legislation to avoid importers who hadn't intentionally done the wrong thing being subject to harsh penalties.
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