Food safety under the spotlight

Posted by James Ferre on 28th May 2008

Adding of an illegal preservative to minced lamb and selling excessively fatty lamb sausages has copped a Western Sydney butcher a $5,500 fine, Minister for Primary Industries Ian Macdonald said today.The proprietor of Lurnea Noureddine Butchery, near Liverpool, was convicted of two charges under the Food Act 2003 for illegally adding sulphur dioxide (SO2) preservative to minced lamb meat and lamb sausages. A third charge related to lamb sausages containing excess fat, contrary to the Food Standards Code that stipulates fat content in sausage meat cannot exceed a ratio of 500 grams of fat per kilogram of lean meat.

“This is a disturbing case and consumers have been cheated twice: firstly with the dishonest addition of sulphur dioxide and secondly with the adding of too much fat to bulk up the meat,” Mr Macdonald stated. “The Iemma Government will not tolerate anyone using underhand methods to rip-off consumers and potentially put their health at risk.”

Sulphur dioxide, a commonly used preservative in a variety of foods including fruit juices, is outlawed for use in fresh meat. “Selling fresh meat containing SO2 is an offence under the Food Act, with a maximum penalty of $55,000 for an individual and $275,000 for a corporation,” Mr Macdonald said. “Dodgy traders have been prosecuted for using this illegal preservative to disguise old or inferior meat. In February, an Ashfield chicken meat retailer was fined nearly $12,000 for illegally adding SO2 to chicken mince to disguise its appearance.”

“The use of SO2 in food is strictly controlled as some people may have serious allergic reactions when it’s used in foods where they do not expect to encounter it, like fresh meat. The authorities will come down hard on dishonest businesses that disregard food laws that protect consumers’ health and prevent them from being deceived,” Mr Macdonald concluded.

Australian government organisations have been cracking down on food safety legislation with legislation to allow ‘naming and shaming’ now very popular. The increased focus appears to be working, particularly in terms of consumer perception, with FSANZ reporting their belief that consumer confidence is improving. A survey conducted in April indicated that 64.5% of people thought food safety had stayed the same or improved in the past year.

Details of the prosecution have been added to the Government’s Name and Shame list of food law offenders on the Food Authority’s website www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/prosecutions.asp.