Ante mortem inspection of live animals and post-mortem inspection of carcasses and offal meats has long been a key element of Australia’s meat quality assurance systems.
In 1982 the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) was formed which provided for Commonwealth control of all meat inspection services ensuring independent control of meat quality assurance and food labelling.
The meat inspection service is intended to:
- Protect public health by attempting to eliminate pathogenic organisms for meat consumed by humans
- Remove meat with organoleptic characteristics that make it unattractive
- Ensure that the meat is true to label
- Satisfy the inspection requirements of importing countries to maintain market access and collect data on the occurrence of animal disease to assist in disease prevention and management processes
1998 saw the beginnings of quality assurance in the export meat processing industry with an increasing focus on AQIS providing quality auditing of industry quality systems and Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) thinking was introduced.
These Meat Safety and Quality Assurance (MSQA) programs entailed HACCP as the basis for quality control, rigorous hazard analysis, establishment of control limits for preventable measures, monitoring and corrective actions for hazards, enhanced record keeping and development of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP) with documentation of standard operating procedures (SOP’s) and work instructions (WI’s) for each working position.
The format of MSQA was consistent with the international ISO 9002 quality standard.
In 2005 the Export Control (Meat and Meat Product) Orders commenced incorporating the Australian Standard for the Hygienic Production and Transportation of Meat and Meat Products for Human Consumption (AS 4696:2002). The Standard requires that the occupier of an establishment engaged in the preparation of meat and meat products for export has an Approved Arrangement (AA). The scope and basis of the AA has as its basis the former MSQA program. AS4696:2002 has now been replaced by AS4696:2007. The AA describes how occupiers will meet legislative requirements, including assuring compliance with:
- Good hygienic practices (GHP) to ensure that food is wholesome.
- The application of HACCP for food safety.
- Product integrity through the application of product identification, segregation, and traceability practices ensuring that product is accurately described and maintains relevant importing country identification.
- Importing country requirements.
- Animal welfare requirements.
In 2011 the Australian Export Meat Inspection Service (AEMIS) was introduced in order to formalise arrangements and transition to full cost recovery by DAFF and AQIS for government provided food safety services.
AEMIS is an integrated set of controls specified and verified by Government that ensures the safety, suitability and integrity of Australian meat and meat products. Underpinning AEMIS are objective hygiene and performance standards which are continually monitored.
A Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (DAFF) veterinarian is responsible for ante-mortem inspection and verification of post-mortem inspection and processor hygiene practices.
Post-mortem inspection is delivered either by DAFF officials called Food Safety Meat Assessors (FSMAs) or Australian Government Authorised Officers (formerly known as AQIS Authorised Officers) (AAOs). The latter are employed by the establishment but are legally bound to DAFF to perform inspections in accordance with a detailed set of DAFF controlled instructions. A FSMA will assist the veterinarian in performing verification activities. An additional roving FSMA will be available for facilities with a larger verification workload. FSMAs and AAOs are subject to ongoing performance verification against national performance standards and the results are recorded in a national database. Where AAOs perform post-mortem inspection on cattle, sheep and goat establishments, all carcases are subject to assessment by an FSMA.
The Australian Standard for the Hygienic Production and Transportation of Meat and Meat Products for Human Consumption (AS4696) require that a suitably qualified meat safety inspector performs post-mortem inspection and make decisions on each carcase and its carcase parts (any tissue or structure removed from a carcase and includes head, viscera and blood).
As at 1 July 2013, AQIS ceased to exist as an operational entity. On 19 September 2013, DAFF (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) was rebranded to the Department of Agriculture.