Food and Water Testing – Mandatory Notifications

Food testing

When undertaking assessments covering microbiological testing of food and potable water conducted in Queensland, Tasmania and Victoria, the facility management and NATA’s assessment teams need to be aware that the Health Departments have mandatory notification requirements when certain pathogens are detected. 

Mandatory reporting is a statutory function undertaken under legislation. NATA has a duty of care to ensure that the accredited facility’s management is aware of the requirements and, hence, assessment teams are obliged to discuss the appropriate regulations and record this as an observation in the report – be it an assessment, reassessment or surveillance visit.

The following requirements apply to testing facilities located in the State where the legislation applies. They are extracted/quoted from either regulatory guidance publications or legislative documents. The full text of applicable regulations and guidance material quoted should be consulted to ensure the requirements are fully understood. Links to these are provided.


The Food Act 2006 describes the obligations of persons testing food to notify the Department of Health when they isolate a prescribed contaminant. 

The person must, unless the person has a reasonable excuse, after isolating the prescribed contaminant or being notified that the contaminant has been isolated —

(a) orally notify the chief executive about the isolation immediately; and

(b) give the chief executive notice about the isolation in the approved form within 24 hours after isolating the contaminant or being notified that the contaminant has been isolated. 


The publication Guidelines for Notifiable Diseases, Human Pathogenic Organisms and Contaminants describes obligations relating to contaminants or human pathogenic organisms in food or water under the Public Health Act 1997.

Notification to the Department of Health and Human Services is required by:

“Persons Superintending or in Charge of a Laboratory – on becoming aware that a test carried out in, or received by, the laboratory indicates that any food or water intended for human consumption, or water used for recreation or in a regulated system, contains a human pathogenic organism or contaminant as specified in Table 3;”

12.1Notification relating to specified notifiable diseases, human pathogenic organisms or contaminants must be made by fax, phone or encrypted email within 1 working day after the initial indication of the result.

12.2In other cases, notification must be made as soon as possible, and wherever possible within 2 working days after the initial indication of the result: 

(a) in writing, dated and signed by the person giving the notification and in an envelope marked "confidential"; or

(b)by telephone or other electronic means.  


The Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 and the associated Regulations require “the person in charge of a laboratory service situated within Victoria” to notify the Department of Health of prescribed micro-organisms isolated or detected in food or water supplies.

Immediate notification must be made by telephone followed by notice in writing within 5 days specifying the micro-organism isolated or detected, date of isolation or detection, source (food or water) and any batch identification (if appropriate).

The only exceptions to mandatory notification of detections are for:

•educational purposes; or 

•the purpose of academic research.