Project number: 2009-787
Project Status:
Budget expenditure: $234,300.00
Principal Investigator: Alison Turnbull
Organisation: SARDI Food Safety and Innovation
Project start/end date: 30 Jun 2010 - 30 Nov 2012


• There have been numerous trade failures regarding exportation of Australian prawns into Asia and Europe. These mainly relate to cadmium and Vibrios. ~4900 tonnes wild caught prawns were exported in 2007/2008 compared with total capture of 19,000 tonnes.

• Due to these trade issues the Seafood Access Forum have ranked Vibrios and cadmium as ‘high priority’.

• Vibrios have been responsible for illness outbreaks in Australia. Due to the role of Vibrios in illness outbreaks Codex is progressing standards on the control of Vibrios and domestic requirements for testing are increasing e.g. Woolworths requires testing for Vibrio cholerae.

• Standard laboratory methods are time consuming and don’t differentiate ‘disease-causing’ and ‘non-disease causing’ strains and so they ‘overscore’ (‘false positives’). The lack of this capability hampers efforts to dispute trade detentions related to the presence of Vibrios.

• This project aims to address this need by developing a rapid method that distinguishes pathogenic and non pathogenic V. parahaemolyticus, V. cholerae and V. vulnificus to underpin domestic and international trade requirements.

• Cadmium trade failures are related to the low maximum level set by the EU and some Chinese jurisdictions. Attempts by the Australian government have been unsuccessful in negotiating a higher limit.

• Recent data published on nutrients in food that may mitigate the adsorption of cadmium by humans has not been fully considered by regulatory authorities. Consideration of this may support the Codex position that no limit is required.

• This project aims to provide a risk-benefit assessment on cadmium in prawns to underpin further multi-lateral trade negotiations and Codex.

• Other potential food safety risks to the prawn industry will also be assessed and key areas of concern will be prioritised to assist in directing resources to issues of high business risk.


1. Establish a recognised capacity to assist industry with domestic and international trade issues/failures related to V. parahaemolyticus, V. cholerae and V. vulnificus in prawns.
2. Generate data on levels of cadmium, iron, zinc, selenium and calcium in prawns to support risk-benefit assessment.
3. Undertake a scientific risk-benefit assessment on cadmium, iron, zinc, selenium and calcium in prawns to underpin future trade negotiations and support the Codex position that a standard is not required
4. Assess and rank the risks (food safety and trade related) to the prawn industry and prioritise key areas of concern to target risk reduction initiatives in the future.

Final report

ISBN: 978-1-921563-58-4
Authors: Ian Stewart Damian May John Sumner Susan Dobson Jessica Tan Tom Madigan Andreas Kiermeier Lina Landinez Navreet Malhi Alison Turnbull Amanpreet Sehmbi Sam Rogers Cath McLeod
Final Report • 2014-04-01 • 722.38 KB


Australia typically produces around 20,000 tonnes of prawns annually, of which around 25% is exported. The Australian Prawn Fisheries Council (APFC) and the Seafood CRC commissioned SARDI to undertake a food safety risk rating of prawns consumed in Australia. This project scientifically evaluated the human health impact of chemical and microbial hazards associated with prawns.

Risk ratings indicate a very low risk of human illness associated with the consumption of prawns produced domestically, imported prawns and exported prawns. This finding is consistent with the public health record which shows few reports of illness related to the consumption of prawns that have been handled appropriately

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