Documentation used in the Meat Industry – Health Certificates.

By now we are used to the notion of globally standardized documents used to classify, consign and transport dangerous goods by sea and air. The reasons for this are easily apparent to those in the shipping industry – safety for crew and assets. One other reason is of course the dangerous goods themselves being able to be used for their intended purpose at destination. Being able to hold up a hairstyle or celebrate with fireworks makes you feel good! The worst outcome is the cargo being rejected upon arrival or having to be disposed of.

So, where else in the shipping world would we use a document that can be understood and used in both the country of export and the country of import?

Frozen or chilled meat. In this case Australian meat.

One of the strengths of the Australian primary industries is the current and historical government policies relating to biosecurity. In this sense Australia is a continent both isolated and protected by her marine borders.

Australia has extremely strict measures to regulate the importation of meat; these measures are implemented both during commercial shipments and private travel. Anyone who has visited Australia would be familiar with immigration forms provided to Quarantine staff on their arrival; these forms explicitly ask whether the passenger is bringing any food with them. Very few foodstuffs are allowed past the border, with the exception of some non-perishable commercially packaged foods. There are significant penalties for non or false declarations made by passengers.

In the commercial trade of meat, meat can be imported into Australia under conditions. For example, bone-in product is prohibited from being imported, however boneless product can be.

The countries that Australian meat are exported to have equally stringent standards; a standard shelf life, correct labeling (inclusive of labels in local language where required and expiry dates) and having been processed at a facility with a documented quality assurance program that meets international standards of food safety.

So, this leads to the need for a document to show how a shipment of meat has been packed, its weight, the intended mode and date of transport and its eligibility to be imported.

A health certificate is used to stipulate:

i) The species of meat

ii) Where the meat was slaughtered

iii) When the meat was slaughtered

iv) Where it was further processed

v) When it was further processed

vi) In some instances and with further supporting documentation, the manner in which it was slaughtered. This is used to satisfy some religious requirements for certain customers and global markets.

vii) When a requirement of the importing country; the expiration date of the product

viii) Depending on the market it is intended for, the veterinary concerns which it is free from. There have been different diseases and outbreak in parts of the world, and as a result certain importing countries require specific guarantees that the meat is certified as showing no evidence of being contaminated or tainted.

ix) Whether it is being shipped by air or sea, and the intended date of export.

So we can see that are some broad similarities between the intentions of health certificates and dangerous goods declaration. Both detail the mode of transport, carton count and weight of the consignment. Neither document should be used for commercial purposes and deal specifically with the physical characteristics of the cargo being shipped.

But all in all, these are two very different documents used in totally unrelated sectors of the shipping world.


By Brian McIver