Australian vendors of spoiled food, or food that is handled in an unsafe manner, or falsely described, will soon face far heavier penalties than at present. Individual vendors will run the gauntlet of paying a A$100 000 fine (up from A$5500), while companies could face fines as high as A$500 000.

The revised laws come against the backdrop of a complete overhaul of Australia’s food labelling regulations, and the steeper fines reflect the serious of the government’s efforts to reduce food poisoning in the country. John McMahon, head of the New South Wales Health food branch, welcomed the revised penalties, telling the Sunday Telegraph (Australia) that “the penalties under the food act at the present don’t reflect the seriousness of food issues.”

While consumer education on safe food handling is a key priority in Australia right now, the onus is also very much on food retailers to make sure their products are safe. Unsafe food containing dangerous bacteria will render retailers subject to penalties, as will unclean food preparation and packing areas on retailers’ premises.

The higher fines potentially redirect prosecution and defence cases from local courts, where they are handled at present, to the Supreme Court. The States and Territories of Australia have also decided to incorporate the revised laws, which were drafted at federal level, into their own food acts. recently carried a feature on Australia’s new food labelling regulations. To read it, click here.