The NSW (New South Wales) Food Authority - a merger between the SafeFood NSW and the food regulatory functions of NSW Health - will be responsible for food safety across the entire food supply chain, aiming to combat the A$765 million (€466 million) spent annually on foodborne illness in the state.
"We want to better safeguard the entire food chain - from seafood to primary production, retail, food service and food manufacturing industries," said agriculture minister Ian Macdonald, echoing the position of many a government today, under pressure to intensify efforts to improve food safety in light of increasing food safety problems.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in industrialised countries, the percentage of people suffering from foodborne diseases - diseases caused by 'agents' that enter the body through eating food such as salmonella - has been reported to be up to 30 per cent.
In the US, for example, around 76 million cases of foodborne diseases, resulting in 325,000 hospitalisations and 5,000 deaths, are estimated to occur each year. Massive costs to the US caused by the major pathogens alone are estimated at US $35 billion annually - 1997 - in medical costs and lost productivity
The task of Australia's first 'through chain' food regulation agency will be to ensure that food is 'safe, labelled correctly and that consumers are provided with every chance to make informed choices about what they eat,' added McDonald.
The food industry in NSW is made up of more than 68,000 businesses, including 31,000 food service operators, 18,000 retail outlets and 19,000 in primary, manufacture and distribution sectors.
Due to be up and running next month the NSW government has already committed $9.48 million for the agency's first year of operation.
According to reports in the Australian press CEO of SafeFood NSW, George Davey, said the merger will complete the state's six-year programme to integrate the raft of different state agencies responsible for food regulation into one sole, over-riding body.