Fear for Public Food Safety: NSW Health to close its only Food Testing Laboratory.

It was announced a week ago that the New South Wales state government is going to close the only public food testing laboratory in the state. The close is to occur mid year as a result of the contract to analyse samples for the Food Authority was not renewed.

Being a part of the NSW Health Pathology, the Forensic and Analytical Science Service (FASS) is the only state government run food testing laboratory. With its closure, NSW public safety is in jeopardy. The existing scientists that work currently work for FASS are concerned about the safety of the public. If the new direction that the government attempts to take comes to no avail, people in the public might become sick and even die due to the lack of governance in the food industry of NSW.

The laboratory has a good track record in regards to upholding NSW food safety. It was responsible for sourcing the Coogee Bay Hotel ice-cream with faeces scandal, the fatal asparagus sauce poisoning in 2008 and the slew of salmonella outbreaks involving hot bread shops across Sydney. It was also the only lab in the country that assisted an international norovirus trial. However, the factor that forced the government’s decision to close the lab down is its inability to handle “unusual incidences”, such as melamine contaminations in 2008, or the testing for drugs in food.

So, what is the new direction that FASS will take? Government food testing will now be the responsibility of a few businesses in the private sector. Having a back track record, Greens MP John Kaye fears that the insufficient skill of the private sector will cause ‚Äúdevastating consequences for public health.”

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