Importer's fine increased from $7K to $20K

Wednesday, 03 September, 2014

A Queensland judge has increased a fine of $7000 to one of $20,000 to act as a deterrent to other food importers. The Department of Agriculture appealed the original fine as it was not proportionate to the seriousness of the offence. Presiding District Court Judge Martin SC ruled that the fine should be increased.

B&E Packaging pleaded guilty to breaching the Imported Food Control Act 1992 after it sold 1500 kg of cooked prawns that it had imported from Vietnam without undertaking mandatory food safety tests.

“Prawns are classified as a ‘risk’ food under Australia’s imported food scheme, which means they should be tested to ensure they are safe to eat and meet Australia’s domestic food standards,” said Raelene Vivian, the Department of Agriculture’s First Assistant Secretary for Compliance.

“It is pleasing to see that Judge Martin notes in his findings that any fine imposed needs to be sufficient to erase any profit made from the sale of the product, as well as to penalise the guilty party.”

Although no evidence was found that the prawns failed to comply with Australian food standards, the number of customers who purchased the prawns is conservatively estimated to be 3000.

“This appeal shows that the department takes its role in managing compliance of imported food with Australia’s standards seriously and will use the full force of the law to achieve a just result,” said Vivian.

“Reckless and deliberate disregard of Australia’s food safety and importing requirements will not be tolerated and can attract fines of $330,000 for a corporation.”

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