There are many inputs along the food supply chain that are essential, but also have the potential to cause significant disruption to business and trade, as well as present a risk to consumers.

Inputs include stock feed, pasture, fodder, water, agricultural chemicals, veterinary treatments, cleaning and sanitising agents and ingredients. An example of one input that can potentially impact food quality and safety outcomes is animal feed.

Animal feed is at the beginning of the food safety chain and can be exposed to possible contamination from chemical residues and toxins such as mycotoxins and aflatoxins that originate from certain fungi.

“The frequency and diversity of chemical residue episodes in Australia over the years have served to illustrate the potential for agricultural and veterinary chemicals to cause considerable disruption to Australia’s food sectors,” said Geoff Raven, CEO of Dairysafe.

“For example, feeding cattle cotton trash has in the past has been associated with a number of residue incidents involving DDT, dieldrin and heptachlor in the mid-1980s, chlorfluazuron in the mid-1990s and endosulfan in the late 1990s to early 2000s.”

Much of this ultimately led to the introduction of the Commodity Vendor Declaration, which declare the food safety status of stock foods, fodder crops, grain and pasture treatments.

Many food safety and quality incidents have occurred over time and the following examples show the extent and impact on food and public health due to inputs along the supply chain:

  • 1985: Soft cheese – over eight months, a Listeria outbreak affected 142 residents of Los Angeles County, leading to the deaths of 10 newborns and 18 adults, and was also responsible for 20 miscarriages. An in-depth investigation linked the deaths to Mexican soft cheeses with the suspected cause of the outbreak being unpasteurized milk.
  • 1989: Milk contamination with dioxin in Belgium – a mixture of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) contaminated with dioxins was accidentally added to a stock of recycled fat used in the production of animal feeds. 
  • 1994: Cattle – cattle fed cotton trash containing residues of the pesticide chlorfluazuron during the drought period contaminated newborn calves with hazardous levels of the chemical.
  • 1998: Meat and milk – in Germany and the Netherlands, meat and milk were found with elevated dioxin concentrations traced to citrus pulp from Brazil that had been neutralized with lime contaminated with dioxin.
  • 2004: Soy milk – manufactured in New Zealand with added kelp contained toxic levels of iodine, with consumption linked to five cases of thyrotoxicosis.
  • 2008: Buffalo milk – in Italy, dioxin was found in buffalo milk from farms, with the probable source being groundwater contaminated by illegal waste dumping.
  • 2009: Soy milk – in Australia, soy milk enriched with ‘Kombu’ seaweed resulted in high levels of iodine, and 48 cases of thyroid problems. The product was voluntarily recalled and a settlement of 25 million AUS$ later reached with the victims.
  • 2011: Meat, eggs and egg products – in Germany, contamination from animal feed containing fat contaminated with dioxins, involving 4,700 farms and leading to 8,000 hens and hundreds of pigs being culled. As a result, exports to China were banned.
  • 2013: Milk – aflatoxin contamination resulted in a milk recall in Europe and a dog food recall in the United States in February and March.
  • 2015: Ice cream – in the US, eight million US gallons (30 million litres) of ice cream was recalled after an outbreak of listeria at one production facility led to 10 hospitalizations and three deaths.
  • 2019: Eggs – dioxin contamination of eggs occurred in Tropodo, Indonesia, originating from the burning of plastic as fuel for the local tofu industry.