The Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) said that it had advised State and Territory health authorities to ensure the removal of a brand of French corned beef from shops pending a full investigation.
This advice follows the recent sale of Tulip brand corned beef to Tasmanian consumers through Chickenfeed Tasmania from stocks previously withdrawn from the marketplace when a suspension was placed on the import of European beef products in January 2001.
Tasmania Health has requested the withdrawal of Tulip corned beef; Chickenfeed Tasmania has complied.
The suspension and a voluntary withdrawal from supermarkets were put in place earlier this year as a cautionary measure against mad cow disease, also known as BSE or bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
BSE is a disease that can have fatal consequences for people through the human form of BSE, variant Creutzfeldt-Jacob disease.
ANZFA's General Manager of Food Safety, Greg Roche, said it was disappointing that the Australian importer of the product, Oriental Merchant Pty Ltd, had not abided by the voluntary withdrawal. ANZFA is investigating whether the importer has robust evidence demonstrating the safety of the product.
"Importers, distributors and retailers responded to our request to remove European beef products from sale very quickly and ANZFA is grateful to them for their efficiency in dealing with our concerns. I am very disappointed that these products have appeared in the stores in Tasmania," Mr Roche said.
"Given that France has indigenous cases of BSE and this product was imported prior to the introduction of Australia's import certification regime, we believe that the importer needs to demonstrate that these products are safe before they can be sold in Australia."
"I understand that substantial quantities of Tulip corned beef are being stored in major capital cities, with nearly 70,000 cans in Melbourne."
"Where public health and safety is at stake, ANZFA makes no apologies for acting in a cautious manner. The food industry has been very understanding and supportive to date," Mr Roche said.