Food Safety Information Council Annual Report 2022-23

Chair’s Report

This annual report covers the 12 month period between our Annual General Meetings in October 2022 and October 2023.

2022/23 has been a highly successful year for the Food Safety Information Council with some of the greatest coverage of our TV and radio community service announcements as well as media coverage for Australian Food Safety Week and the Summer campaign. We were also at the forefront of consumer food safety advice during continuing natural disasters as well as advising on the risks of foraging for wild mushrooms.

Our membership numbers have increased and we have a surplus of $30,752.69 in our bank accounts compared with a slight deficit last financial year.

However, we still need to secure our future. Our costs have increased with inflation and also with our success as subscriptions to services increase as more people use our website and subscription services. While we have increased our membership fees to cover some of these costs and our members support our campaigns with sponsorships and donations, we still have no long-term security while relying on the time donated by our highly qualified volunteers. We continue to make grant applications but grants no longer cover administrative and staff costs.

In the year ahead the Board plans to work on a Business Continuity Plan to source paid administrative assistance, though we recognise this will eat into our reserves.

Finally, I would like to thank the Board, our Committee members, our sponsors and all our members for the time and commitment they give to our organisation in helping Australians keep food safe.

Cathy Moir
Food Safety Information Council Ltd

9 October 2023

Objective 1 Conduct a successful Australian Food Safety Week and Summer campaign as well other relevant campaigns throughout the year

While all Board members contribute to this objective the Communication Committee provides strategic and day to day expertise.

The Committee Chair is Lydia Buchtmann and members:

  • Jason Van Ballegooyen – Section Manager, Communication and Stakeholder Engagement, Food Standards Australia New Zealand
  • Narelle Bickford – Chef and nutritionist
  • Annabel Selby-Jones – Communication Manager Australian Chicken Meat Federation
  • Samantha Smith – National Communications Officer, Environmental Health Australia

Australian Food Safety Week 12 to 19 November 2022

Australian Food Safety Week was held from 12 to 19 November 2022 and was sponsored by Fit for Food an initiative of our member ACCORD Australasia. The theme was ‘Food safety – raw and risky’ covering the risk of food poisoning from raw or minimally cooked meat, poultry, fish, eggs and vegetables as well as possible parasite infections. We also celebrated our 25th anniversary of educating the Australian community in food safety.

In 2022-23 our ‘Raw and risky’ campaign generated 552 media items and reached an audience of:

  • A print and online media audience 5,598,775 (2,613,674)
  • A radio and TV audience 7,609,335 (1,388,800)

Note: previous 2021 audience in brackets where available and also note change in media monitoring suppliers since last year may contribute to how audience was assessed.

Between 7 November 2022 and 29 January 2023 our radio spots were broadcast nationally 6,478 (5,441) times on 275 (288) radio stations with an estimated value of $296,681 ($210,320) if purchased. Our TV spots were played 1912 (1596) times on metropolitan stations with an estimated value of $210,320 if purchased and 4,310 (1700) times on regional stations with a conservative estimated value of $47,440 if purchased as not all regional stations track audiences. This includes First Nations TV and Imparja. A First Nations campaign, designed by a First Nations presenter, played on indigenous radio nationally.

In total this reflects a 103:1 return on investment.

Our Good bugs, bad bugs video was also played in 4,000 GP Clinics and 390 pharmacies and 244 Aboriginal Medical Centres by our sponsor Tonic Health Media in December 2022 and January 2023 reaching a captive and attentive audience of over 20 million. This was a value of $158,770 if purchased.

National Science Week 12 to 20 August 2023

For National Science, Week 12 to 20 August 2023, we issued a media release to encourage Australians to learn how our ‘food detectives’ track down outbreaks of foodborne disease to keep us all safer. This generated 15 news items including a 30 minute piece on ABC Radio Life Matters presented by Associate Professor Julian Cox our Scientific Director. We also promoted our member the Australian Institute of Food Science and Technologies free National Science Week Webinar Innovation Powering Future Industries.

In addition, we issued another 5 media releases during the year about: school lunchboxes (January 2023), not picking and eating wild mushrooms (March 2023)), food safety and camping (April 2023) , World Food Safety Day (June 2023) and pets and food safety (September 2023).

More than half of our media coverage comes from the media approaching us for expert food safety advice, usually through the Australian Science Media Centre. Issues included:

  • advising on the risk of foraging for wild mushrooms note: we did not comment directly on the tragic deaths from eating death cap mushrooms. (96 media items)
  • advising on the risks of foraging for wild foods after a parasite infection in the brain (8 media items)
  • reducing food waste (12 items)
  • storing leftovers safely (3 items)
  • ongoing advice on food safety in floods, fires and other natural disasters.

To assist consumers during natural disasters we are working with post-graduate students from Latrobe University to further develop our food safety in emergencies app which can be accessed off line. To date both Android and IoS versions are being developed.

Objective 2: Ensure our work is based on scientific evidence, including identifying and dealing with emerging risks.

While all of the Board members contribute to this Objective, the Scientific Committee is primarily responsible for meeting it. That Committee meets outside of, or just prior to Board meetings to draft, refine and discuss the scientific merit and veracity of press releases and other information. The Committee deliberations are shared with the Board to further refine and finalise information for public consumption. The Scientific Committee brings a diversity of expertise and experience to bear on this Objective:

  • Dr Julian Cox, Associate Professor, UNSW Sydney
  • Dr Patricia Desmarchelier, food safety consultant
  • Karen Ferres, A/Executive Director, Health Protection & Licensing Services, SA Health
  • Zoe Bartlett, Senior Microbiologist, Food Safety and Microbiology, FSANZ
  • Brigitte Cox, retired (ex-CSIRO)
  • Dr Sheri Cooper, Dietitians Australia
  • Professor Shokoofeh Shamsi, Charles Sturt University

Alongside merit and veracity of releases, the committee makes ongoing effort to ensure currency, updating material on existing topics while seeking to expand coverage of food safety issues, including emerging risks. Examples include risk associated with backyard eggs, a phenomenon which grew under COVID19, greater awareness around parasites, especially associated with seafood, the growing tension between maintenance of food safety and reduction in food waste, and the impact of climate change.

The Committee is also looking to review and revise all of the Council’s published material, including the web site.

Finally, the Committee is exploring the development of local recipes that integrate food safety messaging, aligned with an initiative from a similar US-based organisation. More broadly, The Committee and Council is looking to leverage scientific and technical content from related organisations globally, to bring a greater range of resources to the public.

Objective 3: Secure sufficient funding for operational and educational activities and comply with our reporting and tax requirements

Doug Lau CPA, our Finance and Risk Director, plus the rest of the Food Safety Information Council Board, is responsible for managing this objective.

The Board met 8 times during 2022/23and consists of:

  • Cathy Moir Chair and Company Secretary (6/8 meetings)
  • Brigitte Cox Vice-Chair (6/8 meetings)
  • Lydia Buchtmann Director and Chair of the Communications Committee (6/8 meetings)
  • Fiona Fleming (7/8 meetings)
  • Dean McCullum Director (6/8 meetings)
  • Dr Julian Cox, Director and Chair of the Scientific Committee (4/8 meetings)
  • Dr Andrew Mathieson, Director (4/8 meetings)
  • Professor Shokoofeh Shamsi Director (3/8 meetings)
  • Doug Lau (6/8 meetings)

Our Annual General Meeting was held in October 2022 and our Annual Planning Day to plan for the year ahead and to choose the theme for Australian Food Safety Week 2023 was held in 17 July 2023. Both were by video conference.

The total equity in our bank accounts at 30 June 2023 was $75,110.51 (up from $63,535.92 the previous year) which includes $20,000 kept aside to cover any costs should we ever need to wind up the organisation. We had a surplus of $30,752.69 in 2022/23 (which includes donations and sponsorships for the 2023 Australian Food Safety Week yet to be expended) compared with a slight deficit of ($3,354.09) in 2021/22. Our Finance and Risk Committee is looking at investing in term deposits to increase income.

Our annual GST activity statement for 2022/23 was submitted to the ATO in October 2023 and a refund of $163 due.

Our 2021/22 annual information statement was lodged with the Australian Charity and Not- for-profits Commission in December 2022 meeting the deadline.

Membership of the Australian Charity Guide’s group of CEOs from charities and non-profits has enabled us to take part in professional development on Board governance, financial controls, grant writing, and search engine optimisation as well as student projects on funding options, application development and social media improvements.

Objective 4 Increase the number of and engage with our membership.

Prof Shokoofeh Shamsi is Chair of the Membership Committee with day to day administration by Lydia Buchtmann

We currently have 55 members. We were pleased to welcome 3 new individual members during the year: Narelle Bickford, Dr Scott Crerar and Raj Bhatt.

Members continue to be highly engaged in our work either contributing time or sponsoring our campaigns. It was pleasing to be able to attend events again and meet more of our stakeholder and members including the NSW Food Authority’s food business event Sydney Olympic Park May 2023 and the Environmental Health Association NSW Conference in September 2023. Thanks to our members Andrew Mathieson (First for Training), Shane van de Vorstenbosch (OnSolution) and Professor Shookofeh Shamsi for running these sessions.

Current members are:

Professional organisations: Australian Institute of Food Science and Technology, Dietitians Association of Australia, Environmental Health Australia

Consumer organisations: Choice

Companies: Arytza Australasia, Catercare, Ecolab, Elanco Australasia, First for Training, Gourmet Guardian, Merieux Nutrisciences, On Solution, Symbio Australia, Whiteley Corporation

Individuals: Raj Bhatt, Narelle Bickford, Kee Chi, Julian Cox, Scott Crerar, Maria Deckys, Doug Lau, Tressna Martin, Anna Liza Navarro , Roy Palmer, Lauren Preston, Jack Stratford, Ralph Greco, Graham Jopling, Andrew Matthews, Shokoofeh Shamsi, Pam Young

Industry organisations: Accord Australasia, Australian Eggs, Australian Chicken Meat Federation Incorporated, Red Meat Advisory Council

Government: ACT Department of Health & Community Care, Department of Health Western Australia, Department of Health Tasmania, Food Standards Australia New Zealand, New South Wales Food Authority, Northern Territory Department of Health & Community Services, OzFood Net, Queensland Health, Safe Food Queensland, South Australia Department of Health

Life members (for long term contribution): Lydia Buchtmann (Communications Director), Brigitte Cox (Vice Chair), Patricia Desmarchelier – Food Safety Principles (former Technical Committee Chair), Michael Eyles (former Chair), Barbara Munce (former Public Officer), Rachelle Williams AnYi (Past Chair)

Local Government: Goyder Council, Surf Coast Shire Council and City of Wodonga Council.

Research organisations: CSIRO, Australian Food Safety Centre of Excellence