An amendment to the Victorian Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 that mandates the notification of anaphylaxis presentations to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services by Victorian hospitals will come into effect on 1 November 2018. The manner, details and period of the notifications will be prescribed in Regulations, which are currently being developed.

More detailed information is available from our frequently asked questions page.

The amendment to the Act will require anaphylaxis reporting bodies (defined below), to notify the department where a registered medical practitioner they employ has reasonable grounds to believe that a person presenting for treatment at the anaphylaxis reporting body has anaphylaxis.

The amendment also requires the ‘person in charge’ of the hospital to ensure that processes are implemented to ensure that the hospital complies with the notification requirements.

An ‘anaphylaxis reporting body’ is defined as a public hospital, a denominational hospital, a private hospital, a multi-purpose service or a privately-operated hospital within the meaning of the Health Services Act 1988.

Why are anaphylaxis notifications from hospitals being implemented?

The legislative amendments were introduced by the Minister for Health, the Hon Jill Hennessy MP, in response to a Victorian Coronial report regarding the 2013 death of a 10-year-old boy. The boy consumed an imported coconut drink that contained dairy milk, which was not mentioned on the product label, in breach of Australian food labelling legislation.

The boy was allergic (anaphylactic) to dairy products, and tragically died after consuming it. At the time, the hospital was not required to and did not notify the department of the likely cause, and as a result the product remained in the marketplace for six weeks before being recalled from the shelves.

What will the department do with anaphylaxis notifications?

The lodgement of anaphylaxis notifications by hospitals will enable the department to investigate cases where a public health response is required, for example, in a case where a packaged food is not labelled correctly or a meal at a restaurant contains food allergens, despite the customer ordering it without.

Victoria’s Chief Health Officer has powers under the Victorian Food Act 1984 to make an order to prevent the possibility of a serious danger to public health. This includes the power to direct that a particular type of food be recalled from the marketplace.

The department supports the Chief Health Officer in exercising their powers under the Food Act by responding to reports of possible food law breaches. Where notifications of food-related anaphylaxis are received, the department oversees their follow-up. If a notification relates to packaged food without food allergens declared on the label, the department coordinates allergen testing of the product at a laboratory, and any food recalls to ensure the product is removed swiftly from the marketplace if required.

The department also refers food complaints and issues relating to food businesses such as cafes and restaurants to local councils for further action, as councils register and regulate food businesses under the Food Act. This includes the referral of notifications of anaphylaxis from hospitals under the new scheme which relate to food businesses that have served a meal containing a food allergen to an allergic customer where the meal was ordered with it. This may also be a food law breach and important to follow up to ensure the business understands its statutory obligations in order to protect public health.

In addition, data collected will also enable the department to better understand the burden of anaphylaxis in Victoria and to inform public health policy, interventions and research.

Status

The department is currently exploring options for the Regulations, which will set out the manner, details and timing of notifications, in consultation with Victorian hospitals.

More information will be provided as it becomes available.

If you have questions or would like to speak to someone in the department regarding anaphylaxis notifications, please send an email to anaphylaxis@dhhs.vic.gov.au and we will get back to you as soon as we can.

The legislative amendments requiring notification of anaphylaxis presentations in the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 can be accessed at: Health and Child Wellbeing Legislation Amendment Act 2018 (See Part 3 (18) New Division 3A of Part 8 inserted).

The Coronial Findings which led to the legislative amendments can be found on the Victorian Coroner’s website at: Coroners Court of Victoria – Finding Without Inquest into the Death of Ronak Satyajit Warty.