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FSANZ invites comment on a variation to the Code relating to Companion Dogs in Outdoor Dining Areas

Members: General News: 24/5/2012

In its Food Standards Notification Circular of May 2 Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) invites written submissions on the draft variation to the Code for the following Application by 6pm (Canberra time) 13 June 2012:
 
‘ Proposal P1018 –Companion Dogs in Outdoor Dining Areas: to remove restrictions on the presence of companion dogs in outdoor dining areas of food premises.’
 
In the proposal, the term companion dog is taken to mean ‘pet dog’. Guide dogs are referred to as assistance dogs.
 
CLICK HERE for links to the documents associated with this proposal.
 
The following paragraphs are extracts from Supporting Document 1 – Risk Assessment.
 
Clause 24 of Standard 3.2.2 of Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code (the Code), below, specifies food safety requirements in relation to the control and management of live animals and pests in areas in which food is handled. It is the food business’s responsibility to manage live animals and pests in the food preparation and service area to ensure food and drink handled in the premises are safe for consumers. This includes not permitting live animals in areas in which food is handled.
 
24. Animals and pests
(1) A food business must –
(a) subject to paragraph (b), not permit live animals in areas in which food is handled, other than seafood or other fish or shellfish;
(b) permit an assistance animal only in dining and drinking areas and other areas used by customers;
(c) take all practicable measures to prevent pests entering the food premises; and
(d) take all practicable measures to eradicate and prevent the harbourage of pests on the food premises and those parts of vehicles that are used to transport food.

(2) In subclause (1), ‘assistance animal’ means an animal referred to in section 9 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 of the Commonwealth.
 
Editorial note:
Section 9 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 refers to a guide dog, a dog trained to assist a person in activities where hearing is required and any other animal trained to assist a person to alleviate the effect of a disability.

Different approaches have been taken to manage the implementation of the presence of companion dogs in outdoor dining areas which form part of the food business premises. The presence of companion dogs in the outdoor dining areas of the premises operated by a food business, in addition to guide dogs, is permitted in New South Wales, South Australia, and Victoria, subject to the permission of the food businesses operating the outdoor dining areas. In Western Australia, local government authorities will actively enforced the compliance by a food business with the above standard only when there is evidence of a present risk of unsafe or unsuitable food being sold by a particular food business.

 

CONCLUSION
The potential risk of foodborne transmission of zoonotic agents from companion dogs in outdoor dining settings to humans is considered to be very low to negligible. This is supported by the following factors:
 
• The likelihood of direct contact of food or food preparation areas with infected companion dogs or dog faeces is negligible as dogs would not ordinarily be allowed into food preparation areas.
 
• Acquiring diseases through indirect foodborne transmission routes requires the involvement of an intermediate vector. As illustrated in Figure 1, such vectors may include food preparation personnel, food service personnel or rodents/insects. A successful foodborne disease transmission through an intermediate vector is dependent on (1) a successful transmission of pathogens carried by companion dogs to an intermediate vector, and (2) a successful transmission of such pathogens to humans through food contaminated by the intermediate vector. Therefore the likelihood of acquiring diseases carried by companion dogs in outdoor dining areas involving an intermediate vector is predicted to be very low, because the probability of the occurrence of one event that is dependent on the occurrence of two consecutive events4 is very low when the probabilities of the occurrence of the two consecutive events are themselves both low.
 
• Potential contamination of food directly from companion dogs, or indirectly through contaminated intermediate vectors, in outdoor dining settings is managed through compliance with general food safety standards and food safety management or control programs for restaurant food hygiene.
 
• Studies on human-dog interactions indicate that, in general, contact between people and dogs that are not their own pet/s is limited. This minimises the potential for contact and consequently the transmission of pathogens from dogs in outdoor dining settings to humans.
 
• Zoonotic pathogens originating from companion dogs present in outdoor dining areas represent a theoretical foodborne disease risk to consumers dining in these settings in Australia. This risk may be slightly higher for young children and immune-compromised individuals. However, the overall level of food safety risk arising from the presence of companion dogs in such settings is expected to be very low to negligible. Adherence to good hygienic practices in food preparation and service, maintenance of cleanliness, and proper pest control by food businesses should contribute to the minimisation of any potential risk of foodborne transmission of pathogens potentially carried by companion dogs in outdoor dining areas.
 

 

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