A NEW Senate inquiry into beef imports into Australia was launched yesterday.The Senate Standing Committee on Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport is conducting the inquiry after the recent media hype and comments made by Independent Senator Nick Xenophon that suggested Australia could be importing beef from BSE affected countries.
With a report due date of June 17, the inquiry will look into:
"(a) the possible imminent importation of beef products from countries whose cattle herds have bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) and/or foot-and-mouth disease (FMD);
(b)the processes undertaken by Australian government agencies in determining risk to consumers and industry and the adequacy of such processes;
(c) the lessons to be learnt from the recent contamination of the beef supply chain with horse meat throughout Europe and its implications for Australian consumers and industry;
(d) the likely implications of allowing imports of beef from BSE and FMD countries on Australia's international reputation and standing as the world's safest exporter of beef;
(e) the adequacy of Australian food labelling laws to ensure Australian consumers can make a fully informed choice on Australian meat products; and
(f) any related matters.
The comments made by Mr Xenophon were prompted by the announcement by Food Standards Australia New Zealand that they would allow imports of beef from countries affected by BSE.
A BSE food safety risk was recently undertaken by FSANZ for the Netherlands, Croatia and Vanuatu and found that "the risk posed to consumers from the export of beef products from these countries is negligible".
In a media statement Mr Xenophon said: "while FSANZ has labelled the risk to consumers as negligible, Australia's weak country of origin labelling meant that consumers could not make a completely informed choice about the origin of products."