FSANZ, the Australian and New Zealand food watchdog, said this week it has linked up with a similar agency on the other side of the world to share information about food safety.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) have agreed to boost the flow of information about food safety emergency issues that "may pose a serious or unacceptable risk or threat to the health of consumers."
The global incidence of foodborne disease is difficult to estimate, but the World Health Organisation estimates that some 2 billion people a year are ill from unsafe food. In industrialised countries, the percentage of people suffering from foodborne diseases each year has been reported to be up to 30 per cent. In the US, for example, around 76 million cases of foodborne diseases, resulting in 325,000 hospitalisations and 5,000 deaths, are estimated to occur each year.
"A food emergency anywhere in the world can become a matter for concern here in Australia within hours. Food regulators around the world need to continue to work collaboratively to address these food safety issues and this agreement between FSANZ and CFIA is an example of this collaboration," commented the Hon Rob Knowles, chairman of the FSANZ board.
The agency is developing a number of agreements with other countries "so that we can share interests, have a common purpose and build an infrastructure".
Last year FSANZ signed an MOU (Memo of Understanding) with the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology to establish a collaboration in the areas of food safety.