Australian consumers are living on a knife-edge with regard to food borne illnesses. According to the Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) the average person has a one in five chance of suffering from such an illness this year alone.

Ian Lindenmayer, managing director of ANZFA, explained at a Foodweek convention how the figure was calculated: "We concluded that on the basis of our estimates 4.2m Australians will contract a food borne illness every year at a cost in the order of A$2.6bn.

"For the average person living here for a year, there is a 22% probability that he or she will come down with food borne illness in that year."

Lindenmayer added that the chances were even higher in the US, where consumers face a 28% chance of illness.

Responding to the figures, ANZFA has developed a new series of national food safety standards. These include however a controversial proposal to make food-based businesses draw up hazard assessment plans and continuously monitor the potential for contamination.