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Food Agency Compromised By Lack Of Independence

New Food Agency Compromised By Lack Of Independence

12 June 2002

Green Party Food Safety spokesperson Sue Kedgley will today introduce an amendment to set up the new food agency as an independent Crown agency.

The Food Amendment bill introduced into the House today sets up the agency within the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry.

But Ms Kedgley said the agency would be seriously hampered by its lack of independence, and consumers would not have confidence in it.

"Food crises such as BSE occurred in part because regulators put the interests of food producers ahead of consumer protection and public health, and that is why overseas governments are working hard to break that cycle by setting up independent food safety agencies.

"But here in New Zealand, the Government is putting the interests of food producers ahead of consumer protection and public health concerns. An example is the Government turning a blind eye to the routine dosing of antibiotic feed to chickens, despite international research showing that this contributes to the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria."

Ms Kedgley said it was also astonishing that the Government had not set any objectives in the legislation for the agency.

"The Bill does not mention food safety, promoting public health, consumer protection or any of the other key issues that you would expect a food agency to be concerned with.

"Instead cabinet can determine the objectives of the agency, which will mean they can be changed at the whim of a new Government. It seems that this agency is a creature of cabinet which will offer consumers very little reassurance about the safety of their food."

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