MPI: New import requirements for frozen berries a win-win for consumers and food importers

New Zealand Food Safety has issued new import rules for frozen berries to help keep New Zealanders safe and improve processes at the border.

In 2022-2023 there was an outbreak of hepatitis A virus associated with frozen berries, affecting 39 people.

“New Zealand was among a number of countries which recalled frozen berries at different times due to concerns about the presence of hepatitis A,” says New Zealand Food Safety deputy director-general Vincent Arbuckle.

“We’ve worked hard to the identify and implement ways to improve food safety rules to better manage the risk to consumers. As part of this we worked closely with major frozen berry importers, who have expressed strong support for the changes.

“New Zealand Food safety’s work to strengthen these requirements was acknowledged in a recent Office of the Auditor-General report into monitoring importers of high-risk foods as ‘robust and in line with international best practice’.”

In a first for New Zealand, the change introduce the use of independent certification to confirm an overseas manufacturer’s food safety systems meet New Zealand’s food safety standards.

“This gives us more confidence that risks associated with frozen berries are being managed off-shore before they come to New Zealand,” says Vincent Arbuckle.

The changes will come into effect on August 1 and importers have 18 months (until 31 January 2026) to transition to the new import requirements. We anticipate that importers will opt take up the system fairly quickly.

“Now that the outbreak is over, and affected products have been removed from the shelves, the risk to consumers has reduced. Hepatitis A virus in imported frozen berries, however, remains a potential risk.

“If consumers have concerns or are part of a vulnerable population group, then they can heat-treat frozen berries to over 85oC for at least 1 minute,” says Mr Arbuckle.

More about the rule changes is on the New Zealand Food Safety website here:

Requirements for Registered Food Importers and Imported Food for Sale [PDF, 440 KB]

Changes introduced include:

  • Strengthening the imported food category of frozen berries from Increased Regulatory Interest food to High Regulatory Interest food.
  • Clearly describing the products included or excluded from the application of the clearance requirements.
  • Removing ineffective requirements for microbiological testing of frozen berries at the border, with more robust requirements in place for manufacturers prior to shipping.
  • Addition of specific provisions for the use of third-party certificates and their accompanying manufacturers’ declarations for clearance of imported frozen berry consignments.
  • Specifying what assurances official certificates must provide and the need for them to be agreed between an exporting country’s competent authority and MPI.

For more information read here.