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Completed project

Managing microbial food safety risks in the Australian citrus industry (CT20005)

Key research provider: NSW Department of Primary Industries
Publication date: Tuesday, April 30, 2024

What was it all about?

This investment delivered a national snapshot of the citrus industry’s current food safety practices and identified potential gaps to be addressed. The overall aim was to mitigate microbial food safety risks associated with the production, postharvest handling and supply of citrus to consumers in domestic and export markets.

Based on the current industry practice, microbial risk mapping and available scientific literature, a Best Practice Guide was developed as a technical resource to assist industry in addressing microbial risks.


To remain competitive in the export markets it is imperative that the citrus industry has the capacity to consistently supply safe fruit. Due to the inedible peel, citrus fruit presents a relatively lower microbial food safety risk to consumers. However, any detection of microbial contaminants on the fruit poses a potential ‘trade risk’ and could trigger a non-tariff barrier in the export markets.


The project followed a whole-of-chain approach to identify potential hotspots for microbial contamination and cross-contamination along the supply chain. Each link within the supply chain was examined, starting with field production and postharvest processing through to retail by collecting fruit and environmental samples to detect target foodborne bacterial pathogens.


The project delivered insights into the prevalence, distribution, and pathways of microbial contamination. The identified gaps in industry practices serve as opportunities for improvement and addressing them will contribute significantly to safeguard the food safety record of the citrus industry.

Key benefits to industry include:

  • Current food safety practices in the Australian citrus supply chain benchmarked and increased knowledge of the potential survival of foodborne pathogens on citrus fruit.
  • Microbial food safety risks in the Australian citrus supply chain identified and mapped, enabling controls to be put in place to mitigate food safety incidents.
  • Increase in the knowledge, attitudes, skills, aspirations of the citrus industry supply chain with regards to microbial food safety risks and demonstrated use of developed resources.
  • Opportunities and gaps for future R&D communicated to industry and Hort Innovation.

The project engaged more than 50 citrus packers throughout Australia, representing a substantial network of over 750 growers. Based on the current industry practice, microbial risk mapping and available scientific literature, Best Practice Guidance was developed as a technical resource to achieve the microbial risk management objectives. Several technical presentations and articles were delivered through various channels of communication and engagement such as on-site technical visits, workshops, forums, field days, meetings and conferences. The on-site visits were the most effective method to enhance the skills and knowledge of growers, packers and the key staff involved in quality assurance.

Related levy funds

This project was a strategic levy investment in the Hort Innovation Citrus Fund