SYDNEY (AFP) – Tougher food scree-ning measures could be introduced in Australia with frozen berries from China linked to a growing number of hepatitis A infections, Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said Wednesday.
Nanna’s and Creative Gourmet brand raspberries and mixed ber-ries were recalled after they were linked to four infections in New South Wales and Victoria states, with poor hygiene or contaminated wa-ter at their packing factory thought to be responsible.
Since then more infections have emerged in Queensland and Wes-tern Australia, with the government confirming at least 13 cases nationally so far.
Asked whether the scare deman-ded more controls on imports, Joyce said: “That might be a con-sequence of a review that is being undertaken.”
Joyce also called for a streng-thening of Australian labelling laws on food products and urged con-sumers to buy local produce.
“We have stronger laws, we do have stronger oversight to make sure we have a cleaner, green product than what comes in from overseas,” he told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“That’s why you pay a premium for Australian product… I want to make sure that when you pick up something, you can look at the can and say ‘This is Australian’. It’s slightly dearer but by gosh it’s safer.”
However, Prime Minister Tony Ab-bott was cool on labelling changes, warning it could impose more re-gulation on business.
“The bottom line is that com-panies shouldn’t be poisoning their customers,” he said.
“We’re certainly looking at what we can do to toughen up screening, but we also need to look to business to lift its game here.”
The recalled products were pac-ked in China and contained raspber-ries, strawberries and blackberries
grown there, and blueberries from Chile.
Australia’s Agriculture Depart-ment said it was engaging with Chinese authorities through its embassy in Beijing, “seeking assu-rances about the safety of further shipments of frozen berries expor-ted from China”.