The Federal Government has serious questions to answer over its handling of the Hepatitis A contamination scare. 

With the number of confirmed cases rising to 14 across four states, and growing fears this number will escalate, the Abbott Government must explain why the frozen berry imports were only assigned the less-risky “surveillance” status, meaning fewer ­inspections and no testing for pathogens harmful to humans, only for chemical residues.

This is despite numerous reports of similar Hepatitis A outbreaks in Europe and North America over the past year linked to frozen berries.

The Prime Minister’s dismissal of any government responsibility for the outbreak by saying that “…companies shouldn’t be poisoning their customers” is simply not good enough.

Shadow Assistant Minister for Health, Stephen Jones, has written to his counterpart, Senator Fiona Nash, asking her to explain the government’s action leading up to the Hepatitis A contamination scare.

The Government must explain:

-          Why did it take five days after the public was alerted to Hepatitis A contaminated frozen berries, and the first recalls were issued before the government moved to temporarily improve scrutiny of frozen berry imports at our borders?

-          Why was no action taken to review the risk status of frozen berry imports following the outbreaks in Europe and North America?

-          Will the government give an assurance that it will properly resource the review now being undertaken into the risk rating of imported frozen berries?

This episode highlights the need for national leadership on what changes need to be made. If lessons are not learnt from this outbreak the health and wellbeing of Australian consumers will remain in jeopardy.