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Reality Check Needed Over Soy Sauce

National's Consumer Affairs spokesperson Marie Hasler says the Ministry of Health's proposal to impose a complete ban on the importation of soy sauce may be taking things too far.

The proposed ban follows concerns raised by the British Food Standards Agency over carcinogens in some brands of soy sauce. New Zealand Health Ministry spokesman Bob Boyd says that under the ban all soy sauces would be stopped at the border and held until the manufacturers could provide an assurance that their products met proposed European standards.

"I commend the Ministry of Health's desire to safeguard the health of New Zealanders. But their reaction may be disproportionate to the threat posed by soy sauce," Marie Hasler said today.

"The British Food Standards Agency says one quarter of the brands of soy sauce they tested contained chemicals which 'would only be harmful to people who used them on a daily basis over a long period of time. Occasional consumers are unlikely to be harmed.'

"In effect they're saying people who marinate themselves in soy sauce are at risk.

"The question is whether that risk justifies an immediate blanket ban on soy sauce imports, or whether the better response would be to find out which brands pose a threat, and ban them.

"The Director General of Health in this country, Dr Karen Poutasi, is right to advise the public about the issue. But surely she should check out the extent of the problem in New Zealand before giving an all out direction for consumers to avoid any product containing soy sauce - as she did last week - or banning all soy sauce imports as she appears poised to do this week.

"Identifying the brands which pose a risk and banning them would be a sensible and welcome step. An outright ban on all soy sauce products would appear to be 'bad science'," Marie Hasler said.


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