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AUSTRALIA’S biggest supermarket chain has been forced to make changes to its food safety guidelines, after a spate of reports of contamination.
Key points: The Australian supermarket chain said it would have to test the food it sold to customers in the wake of a spate on its shelvesThe company said it was “in touch” with health authorities, but said it could not yet confirm how many people had been affectedA new policy, which requires the company to test all food sold by its customers, is expected to take effect this month.
The change comes after the ABC revealed that shoppers were being exposed to the bacteria Clostridium difficile in at least one case of suspected food poisoning.
In the wake, the supermarket chain launched an urgent response to improve the safety of its food.
“Our current policies for our customers are inadequate,” supermarket chief executive Simon McVicar said in a statement.
“The latest information we have has led us to develop a new set of policies that will require all our customers to be tested and ensure that their food is safe.”
Mr McVacar said the new policy was not just about testing food, but also about informing the public and ensuring food safety.
“We will have to inform the public about the new rules and what we are doing to ensure their safety,” he said.
“We are in touch with the health authorities to get their assessment of the situation, but the details we can provide are confidential at this stage.”
The new guidelines will mean food tested must also have a label and contain the date of manufacture, a statement from the Australian Food and Drug Administration (AFA) said.
It said the changes would “help ensure that food is tested in a safe manner, and will also make it easier for consumers to purchase fresh foods, including those from other Australian retailers”.
The AFA said it has been in contact with the supermarket’s food safety team to work out how to test more fresh produce, but it would not disclose what would be tested.
“As the AFA is not a consumer protection agency, we can’t provide advice to consumers, nor will we be able to assess how well these new tests work in the future,” the statement said.
Mr McGowan said the supermarket had been in touch to inform customers of the changes and was “working with the ABA and Health Australia to get these in place before the end of the month”.
He said the policy would help ensure that people were able to purchase food from other retailers.
Food safety measures are already mandatory in the UK and in the US.
In response, the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) said it had not yet been made aware of the Australian supermarket’s decision to introduce the new food safety measures.”FDA is aware of this issue and will be taking the appropriate steps to assist the Australian food industry in complying with the requirements of the Food Safety Modernisation Act,” a spokesperson said.
It was not clear whether the new requirements would apply to the UK.
A spokesman for the British government said the government was working with food manufacturers to ensure that the food they produce is safe.
“While we cannot confirm any food-borne outbreaks, we will work closely with industry to ensure the safety and security of our food supply,” a spokesman said.
The changes come after the Australian retailer said it found one case in one of its stores of suspected contamination.
The supermarket chain says the suspected contamination was isolated to a single shelf and that the contamination was not spread through food contact.
However, the ABC has confirmed that a number of food-related cases have also been reported in other stores, including a case at a Tesco supermarket in the Brisbane suburb of Ipswich.
“It is a significant number of cases across the supermarket sector, and the extent of the contamination is very significant,” a Tescona spokesperson said in an email.
“This is a major concern for our shoppers and staff and we are in contact to work with local authorities.”
Tescona has since confirmed that two of its customers in Ipswich have tested positive.
The company also said it “will continue to work closely” with the Food Standards Agency and health authorities and was monitoring the situation.
“For more information, please contact our Customer Service Centre,” it said.