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New Zealanders In Dark About Food Safety Changes

(Sue Kedgley will ask Question 11 in Parliament today on these changes to ANZFA)

Plans are well under way to spring a secretive trans-Tasman agreement designed to weaken food health and safety regulations on New Zealand, Green Party Safe Food spokesperson Sue Kedgley said today.

Ms Kedgley said it was incredible that the Australia New Zealand Food Authority (ANZFA) - the body which sets food standards for New Zealanders - could be disbanded without public discussion or a Parliamentary vote in New Zealand, and a new body with much greater food industry control put in its place.

"It's extraordinary but that's what is going on," she said. "These changes are going to be sneaked through as a treaty agreement which is not subject to a Parliamentary debate or vote, even though it's the safety of our food supply at stake."

The new body, the Food Standards Australia New Zealand, will have ten members, all appointed by the Australian Minister of Health in conjunction with the ministerial council.

Food industry and business interests will be able to fill up to five of those places (formerly they had one), and up to eight of the places will be filled by Australians. Legislation giving effect to these changes is currently going through the Australian Parliament.

"Australians were debating the legislation in their Parliament yesterday, but we won't get the chance to debate it or vote on it. This is totally undemocratic and a breach of New Zealand sovereignty.

"Prime Minister Howard was furious when the labelling regime for genetically engineered food, agreed by the health ministers last year, was stronger than he had wanted. These changes are his pay-back," she said.

The ministerial council of health ministers which made the labelling decision will also be watered down by including ministers from other departments such as agriculture and trade, and some of the council's powers will be taken away.

"At a time when consumer confidence in regulatory bodies in Europe is as its lowest due to lack of transparency by their Governments in relation to the handling of Mad Cow Disease, it is astonishing that our food safety regime is being weakened by secrecy and stealth," said Ms Kedgley.

"This proposal must be fully debated in Parliament and on the streets - because consumers want safer food, not weaker regulations."

Ends


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