Video transcript: Monitoring importers of specified high-risk foods

Transcript for a video about our report on food safety monitoring.

Title: Monitoring importers of specified high-risk foods

Richard Towers, Principal Performance Auditor

The amount of food New Zealand imports is steadily increasing. We all expect that food to be safe when we buy it.

Our Office carried out an audit of how well the Ministry for Primary Industries monitors importers of food that presents a greater risk to consumers.

Some of these specified high-risk foods, including frozen berries and tahini, have been associated with food recalls and illness in New Zealand. 

Under the Food Act, importers are responsible for ensuring that food they bring into the country is safe and suitable.

The Ministry’s role is to check whether food importers are meeting their responsibilities. It’s also tasked with ensuring that food import requirements are working effectively.

We found that the Ministry needs to strengthen both its monitoring of food importers and its understanding of the effectiveness of import requirements.

Currently, the Ministry does not have a clear understanding of the effectiveness of the food import system. This is because it has not been consistently monitoring whether importers are assessing the safety and suitability of specified high-risk foods before they arrive in the country.

The Ministry also does not collect all the information it needs to assess the effectiveness of the requirements for importing these foods.

The risks from some imported foods are being managed reactively. This means that, in some cases, action is only taken after people have fallen ill.

The Ministry is aware of these issues, agrees with our findings, and has made some improvements. But it needs to do more to respond to a food import market that is subject to changing food trends and risks.

Since 2021, the Ministry has been working on proposals to strengthen the food safety system, including more monitoring of importers and imported food. The Ministry has begun public consultation on two proposed levies, including a food importer levy to support increased monitoring.

This is positive progress.

However, the Ministry also needs to do more with the information it already collects to build and maintain a better understanding of importers’ compliance with food import requirements and the effectiveness of those requirements.

Our report contains three recommendations to support the Ministry’s work on a more effective food import system. 

Title: Read our report at

Watch the original video.