FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS


Below are a range of frequently asked questions (FAQs) regarding SAFEMEAT and Australia's meat safety systems:

  • How does Australia ensure its red meat products are safe?
  • Underpinning Australia’s commitment to meat safety and its internationally recognised disease-free status are a number of stringent standards and systems which have been developed to protect Australia’s high red meat product standards.

    The Australian government and the red meat and livestock industry have established SAFEMEAT, a joint partnership consisting of representatives from government and industry.

    SAFEMEAT provides oversight and direction into a range of meat safety systems that are in place throughout the Australian production supply chain; whether it is on the farm and at the feedlot, at the saleyard, during transportation or during processing and distribution.

    SAFEMEAT is dedicated to promoting Australia's best practice management systems that ensure when customers purchase red meat or livestock products from Australia they can be confident in the quality and safety of their choice.

    Read more about Australia's meat safety systems that are in place:

  • How can I be sure my Australian meat product is free from chemical residues?
  • Australia’s red meat markets demand that Australian produce be free of unacceptable chemical residues. Australia’s ability to meet these demanding standards underpins its excellent agricultural and food safety reputation.

    One of the key priority areas SAFEMEAT provides advice and direction into is specifically related to residues. SAFEMEAT's objective in working in this area is to assist in the development and implementation of sound management systems that deliver safe and hygienic meat products that comply with government standards and regulations relating to residues.

    To ensure Australian meat products are safe for human consumption, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) has established and maintains a series of Wthholding Periods, Export Slaughter Intervals and Export Grazing Intervals:

    • Withholding Periods
      A Withholding Period (WHP) is the time that must pass between chemical application, including through the feeding of treated feed and the slaughter, collection, harvesting or use of the animal commodity for human consumption. These are clearly printed on the label of all registered products and apply to both veterinary and agricultural chemicals.
    • Export Slaughter Intervals
      An Export Slaughter Interval (ESI) is the period that must lapse between chemical application to livestock and their slaughter for export.
    • Export Grazing Intervals
      An Export Grazing Interval (EGI) is the minimum time interval between application of a chemical to a crop or pasture and grazing by animals destined for slaughter.

    Australian producers are required to follow label instructions which contain information relating to WHP, ESI and EGI and keep good records which enable them to give evidence of management practices that minimise and eliminate the risk of livestock residue contamination. These records are targeted and randomly audited through the on-farm food safety program, Livestock Production Assurance (LPA).

    The APVMA independently evaluates the safety and performance of chemical products intended for sale, ensuring the health and safety of people, animals and the environment are protected. APVMA oversees the determination and regular review and update of appropriate WHPs, ESIs, EGIs and maximum residue levels, ensuring the ultimate product is safe for human consumption.

  • How does Australia control E. coli?
  • Australian beef for export is processed under the veterinary supervision of the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) and is recognised internationally as being of a very high hygienic standard.

    Verification of hygienic performance at Australian abattoirs is carried out by application of an extensive program that includes both visual and microbiological monitoring.

    All export slaughtering establishments participate in the AQIS E. coli and Salmonella monitoring (ESAM) program, which requires E. coli and Salmonella testing of carcases surfaces.

    E. coli (generic) is monitored for process control verification, and this carcase testing is an integral part of an establishment’s HACCP-based Quality Assurance Program.

    In addition to the ESAM program, carcase Total Viable Counts (TVCs) and coliform counts are another mandatory requirement used for process control verification.
  • How is meat labelling regulated in Australia?
  • For information on meat labelling requirements in Australia, refer to the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) website or contact your state-based Meat Hygiene Authority.

  • Is it safe to eat meat from HGP-treated cattle?
  • It is safe to eat meat from HGP-treated cattle.

    Numerous reviews and evaluations of safety and public health risks associated with HGP usage have been undertaken since the mid 1990s with overall international opinion being that there is no increased health risk to humans from consumption of meat from animals treated with HGPs.

    Their use is approved and regulated by the Australian Government’s Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) and a report by the Therapeutic Goods Administration in the “Department of Health and Ageing” has declared that they do not pose a threat to consumers. This report can be viewed online.

    HGPs supplement naturally occurring hormones and are present at much lower levels than the natural hormone levels found in other commonly consumed foods such as soybean oil, cabbage and eggs. (Source: FEDESA – European Federation of Animal Health).

    You would have to eat more than 77kg of beef from treated cattle in one sitting to get the same oestrogen as you do from eating one egg. (FEDESA)

    Download further information on HGPs
  • What are Hormone Growth Promotants (HGPs) and does Australia use them?
  • Hormone Growth Promotants (HGPs) are supplements of naturally occurring hormones that are found in most animal and plant life. They are slow-release implants that contain natural or synthetic hormones used to improve growth rates and feed efficiency in the cattle industry.

    These hormones are naturally present in all meat. HGPs cause no harm to the animal being implanted and research has shown meat treated with HGPs is safe for human consumption.

    HGPs have been used in Australia since 1979 and are used in most major beef producing countries around the world including the United States.

    The use of HGPs is strictly regulated and all HGP products must go through a rigorous accreditation process which is administered by the Australian Government agency the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA). 

  • What are the requirements for Russian market eligibility?
  • To meet Russian market access requirements SAFEMEAT implemented a 90 day Provisional Russian Export Slaughter Interval (ESI) for products and feed containing oxytetracycline or chlortetracycline – effective 1 January 2012.

    While exports to Russia are currently suspended, producers must continue to declare the status of their livestock against this ESI by correctly completing the Livestock Production Assurance National Vendor Declaration and Waybill (LPA NVD/Waybill).

    When using 0413 versions of the LPA NVD, producers must check that the provisional 90 day ESI for products and feed containing oxytetracycline or chlortetracycline has been observed before answering the livestock treatment question on the LPA NVD (Question 6 on the cattle NVD, question 5 on the EU cattle NVD and question 4 on the sheep NVD).

    There is no need to write ‘Russian Eligible’ on 0413 version LPA NVDs.

    For all previous LPA NVD versions, producers must continue to write the words ‘Russian Eligible’ on the LPA NVD/Waybill under Question 9 for cattle, Question 8 for EU cattle and Question 7 for sheep to advise buyers that they do not use products or feed containing oxytetracycline or chlortetracycline, or that the livestock have not been treated with these products in the last 90 days.

    This step is required on older NVD versions because the animal treatments question does not refer to ESIs set by SAFEMEAT.  Where ‘Russian Eligible’ is written on the LPA NVD/Waybill it means that the livestock have not been injected with or ingested feed products containing oxytetracycline and chlortetracycline in the last 90 days.

  • What is Australia's status for major epidemic diseases of livestock?
  • Australia has a widely accepted disease-free status and is recognised as having a ‘negligible’ Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE) risk status (the highest status) and being free from Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD).

    Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy

    Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE) is an incurable central nervous system illness that has been detected in a number of species, including livestock and humans. The major TSE that affects cattle is Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE), while in sheep it is Scrapie.

    Australia has strict quarantine measures and surveillance programs in place to meet international standards for the detection of TSE. Australia has a recognised TSE-free status and is considered a ‘negligible risk’ BSE country (the highest status attainable).

    In 1997 Australia introduced legislation prohibiting the use of meat and bone meal  as a ruminant feed which has been linked to the transmission of TSE in animals. Australia’s TSE status was further enhanced by the implementation of the National Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy Surveillance Program (NTSESP) in 1998 which is nationally coordinated by Animal Health Australia. This was developed to meet the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) International Animal Health Code for the surveillance of BSE in cattle and Scrapie in sheep.

    NTSESP is an integrated national program which involves identifying and testing cattle and sheep for clinical symptoms that could be mistaken for TSE.

    The Australian red meat industry recognises that it is vital to undertake monitoring and surveillance measures in order to protect Australia’s TSE status. These measures ensure that Australia’s international customers continue to be confident about Australia’s TSE-free status.

    As a result of these programs and strict quarantine measures, Australia is recognised by the OIE as a ‘negligible risk’ BSE country. This is the highest status under the OIE system and Australia was one of the first countries in the world to receive this status.

    Foot and Mouth Disease

    Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) affects cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. While the disease is not life threatening it is highly contagious and severely affects an animal’s productivity. Exporting countries that are found to have FMD generally immediately lose access to major trading partners.

    Australia’s stringent quarantine measures and geographical isolation have assisted in retaining its FMD-free status.

    Individual farmers are responsible for monitoring their stock and reporting any unusual signs of disease to a veterinary officer.

    Australia is well prepared should FMD enter its shores. The Australian Veterinary Emergency Plan (AUSVETPLAN), adopted at a federal level but implemented on a state basis, contains contingency measures in the event that FMD or another threatening animal disease be detected in Australia. With respect to FMD, the AUSVETPLAN’s policy involves eradicating the disease within the shortest time possible, while limiting economic impact.

    Vaccination is not a preferred option for FMD control due to its potential to extend market disruption, however as a precaution Australia has arrangements in place to source FMD vaccines should they be required.  

  • What is Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) and does Australia have it?
  • Australia does not have Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) or 'mad-cows disease' or as it is more commonly referred to.

    BSE is a Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE); an incurable central nervous system illness that has been detected in a number of species, including livestock and humans. BSE is found in cattle while in sheep it is called Scrapie.

    Australia has strict quarantine measures and surveillance programs in place to meet international standards for the detection of TSE. Australia has a recognised TSE-free status and is considered a ‘negligible risk’ BSE country (the highest status attainable).

    Read more about Australia's meat safety systems that underpin its disease-free status.

  • What is Foot and Mouth Disease and does Australia have it?
  • Australia does not have Foot and Mouth Disease or FMD as it is commonly referred to.

    FMD affects cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, sheep, goats and pigs. While the disease is not life threatening it is highly contagious and severely affects an animal’s productivity. Exporting countries that are found to have FMD generally immediately lose access to major trading partners.

    Australia’s stringent meat safety systems, quarantine measures and geographical isolation have assisted in retaining its FMD-free status.

    Australia is well prepared should FMD enter its shores. The Australian Veterinary Emergency Plan (AUSVETPLAN), adopted at a federal level but implemented on a state basis, contains contingency measures in the event that FMD or another threatening animal disease be is detected in Australia. With respect to FMD, the AUSVETPLAN’s policy involves eradicating the disease within the shortest time possible, while limiting economic impact.

  • What is 'mad-cows disease' and does Australia have it?
  • Australia does not have 'mad-cows disease' or Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) as it is more accurately known.

    BSE is a Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE); an incurable central nervous system illness that has been detected in a number of species, including livestock and humans. BSE is found in cattle.

    Australia has strict quarantine measures and surveillance programs in place to meet international standards for the detection of TSE. Australia has a recognised TSE-free status and is considered a ‘negligible risk’ BSE country (the highest status attainable).

    Read more about Australia's meat safety systems that underpin it's disease-free status.

  • What is Scrapie and does Australia have it?
  • Australia's sheep flock is free from Scrapie.

    Scrapie is a Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy (TSE); an incurable central nervous system illness that has been detected in a number of species, including livestock and humans. Scrapie is found in sheep.

    Australia has strict quarantine measures and surveillance programs in place to meet international standards for the detection of TSE. Australia has an internationally recognised TSE-free status.

    Read more about Australia's meat safety systems that underpin it's disease-free status.

  • Who is SAFEMEAT and what does it do?
  • SAFEMEAT is a partnership between the red meat and livestock industry and the state and federal governments of Australia.

    This partnership ensures that Australian red meat and livestock products achieve the highest standards of safety and hygiene from the farm to the consumer. SAFEMEAT initiates research and development, develops communication linkages, monitors the status of Australia’s products, reviews standards and examines emerging issues that could have an impact on the industry in the future.

    SAFEMEAT consists of a number of members, committees and working groups who work together to ensure that safe and hygienic red meat products are delivered to the market place - be it domestically or internationally.

    Every sector of the supply chain in Australia is represented by SAFEMEAT, from cattle, sheep and goat producers through to saleyard operators, transportation operators, processors, exporters and government officials.

    SAFEMEAT is supported by a Secretariat, located within the Australian Government Department of Agriculture (DoA) in Canberra, Australia.

    Funding for the SAFEMEAT Secretariat is provided through Meat & Livestock Australia. Funding to attend meetings and undertake projects is provided by individual SAFEMEAT members.




Did You Know...

Australia holds a disease free status for FMD and TSE (BSE or 'mad-cows' disease and Scrapie)

The Australian red meat industry works closely with state and federal government agencies to ensure Australia’s meat safety systems remain world class.

Australian red meat —
Safe, healthy and delicious.

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