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Allergen management

Foodborne illness

FBI investigation in NSW

NSW Health and NSW Food Authority have joint responsibility for investigations into foodborne illness (FBI) in NSW:

  • NSW Health has responsibility to detect clusters of illness in people and undertake epidemiological investigations
  • the Food Authority’s Compliance & Integrity Systems Branch undertakes food business-related investigations and business sampling. 

Finding and assessing evidence to isolate specific causes of illness follows strong scientific principles.

Investigations concentrate on identifying outbreaks involving more than one person to:

  • reduce risk of harm for the largest number of people
  • enable collection of useful patterns of evidence.


Detection of foodborne illness and outbreaks comes from different sources including:

  • laboratory or hospital notifications to NSW Health, in accordance with the NSW Public Health Act
  • routine food sampling or food survey work by the Authority or some food businesses
  • complaints and reports of foodborne illness from the public to a Public Health Unit (PHU), NSW Health, the Food Authority or local councils.

Reports to the Authority and related information are logged into a central system to help with investigations.

Information sharing

The Food Act 2003 makes special provision for relevant health authorities and NSW food enforcement agencies to be able to provide information to each other for these purposes.

Specialist investigators

The Food Incident Response & Complaints unit at the Food Authority is a specialist investigation team that:

  • monitors incoming reports
  • determines when in-depth investigations are warranted
  • liaises with key contacts in other organisations such as NSW Health, Public Health Units (PHUs), local council inspection staff
  • conducts investigations and works with other Food Authority units as required.  

Case studies

Outbreak investigations by the foodborne illness team have included:

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