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Estimates: Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee (Department of Agriculture)

Estimates & Committees
Lee Rhiannon 25 Feb 2014

Senator RHIANNON: Dr Grimes, these questions were submitted on notice in November last year, but I have not received an answer so I will ask them again. With regard to the funding of projects that promote kangaroo meat to consumers, what responsibility does the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation have to ensure its funded projects do not present a health risk to consumers?

Dr Grimes: We have the chief executive of the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation here. He will be able to respond to the elements that they are managing.

Mr Burns: I did not quite get all of that question, so would you mind repeating it, please?

Senator RHIANNON: On the funding of projects that promote kangaroo meat to consumers: what responsibility does RIRDC have to ensure its funded projects do not present a health risk to consumers?

Mr Burns: We have been funded in the past to undertake a series of projects related to the kangaroo industry. Those projects mostly date back to 2000 and were completed by 2010, so they are not recent projects and are not fresh in my mind. They are projects that go out, as all our projects do, and that are done by the appropriate people. When we have the results of that report, if we think it is a report that is worthy of being presented to the public, we make it available. Where it is relevant we might get some peer review done of that work to see whether it has health implications and things like that, but generally speaking what we try to do in the process of allocating the funds and finding the appropriate researcher is make sure that they are people who will cover off on those issues for us.

Senator RHIANNON: Did the RIRDC approve the recommendation, in the Kangaroo Industry Association of Australia's kangaroo recipe book called Roocepies, that kangaroo is best served undercooked or rare?

Mr Burns: I am aware of that book which was published, but again that goes back some time and I do not have the details of the project. I can take that on notice though.

Senator RHIANNON: It has been taken on notice before, and we did not get an answer. So will we get an answer-

Mr Burns: Yes.

Senator RHIANNON: in the required time?

Mr Burns: As far as I know, we did answer that.

Dr Grimes: We will do some checking, because my understanding is that all of your questions on notice were answered. We are a little concerned that you have not received it, so we will do some checking at our end and see what has happened.

Senator RHIANNON: I am happy to be corrected on that. Were food safety checks provided by either the Department of Health's food standards area or by the Department of Agriculture's food division before publication, considering the controversy around undercooked meat?

Dr Grimes: We will have to pick that up in the appropriate section of the agenda. Item 20, food export certification, may be the most appropriate place for it. We will certainly have the officers who would have the background at that section.

Senator RHIANNON: I will come back to it; thank you. Is the RIRDC aware that the Department of Health in Australia warn about the health risks of eating rare or undercooked kangaroo meat?

Mr Burns: I have no direct knowledge of that.

Senator RHIANNON: Do you think that that is relevant when RIRDC is funding publications that promote kangaroo meat as best served undercooked or rare?

Mr Burns: I would say that researchers should certainly be aware of it.

Senator RHIANNON: In previous Senate estimates I was advised by the Department of Agriculture's food division that raw kangaroo meat is not tested for foodborne pathogens such as toxoplasma gondii or salmonella species-and both are zoonitic agents which, as you would know, are widely present in kangaroos-because this is not a requirement of the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code. In relation to government funded advice to undercook the meat: which agency is legally liable for any health risks or fatalities that arise from the ingestion of undercooked meat thus contaminated?

Dr Grimes: I think we would need to pick this in the relevant section.

Senator RHIANNON: It would that go under the same one-food exports?

Dr Grimes: We will handle it there or advise you when we will have the officers available. We do not have those officers with this at the moment.

Senator RHIANNON: Is the RIRDC aware of predictions in the scientific literature that the next outbreak of toxoplasma gondii in Europe would most likely be linked to the consumption of kangaroo meat?

Mr Burns: I am not aware of that, but I make the point that we currently only have one kangaroo project that is still active. Largely, our kangaroo work was done during the 2000s.

CHAIR: It is mostly pet food, anyhow.

Mr Burns: It is not an issue that is currently on our agenda.

Senator RHIANNON: Could you take it on notice and provide details of that project that you currently have, please.

Mr Burns: I can do that.

Dr Grimes: Just to assist the senator, according to our records we answered that question on notice. It was question 49 from supplementary budget estimates.

Senator RHIANNON: I put in a whole lot of questions so could I get-

Mr Burns: We will do any further checking.


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