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Foreign 'mutton' dressed as Kiwi 'lamb'

Foreign 'mutton' dressed as Kiwi 'lamb'

Most of the 30,000 tonnes of foreign meat imported each year ends up in supermarkets either unlabelled or labelled "Made in New Zealand", Green MP Sue Kedgley revealed today.

"But what is even more outrageous is that the Government is blocking moves to introduce mandatory Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL), denying consumers their fundamental right to know where the food they are buying comes from.

"In just a few weeks the Government will make a decision on whether we should introduce mandatory CoOL food labelling like Australia. New Zealand officials argue we don't need it here, that New Zealanders don't want it, and that Australia should abandon its scheme as well. The Government is even threatening to pull out of the Australia-New Zealand food standard if it doesn't get its way.

"Why is the Government so vehemently opposed to New Zealanders' right to know what we are eating, and the right of consumers to make informed choices?" Ms Kedgley asked. "Our Government even has the gall to say in an official paper that 'there is virtually no consumer demand for this information in New Zealand'.

"There has been no credible consultation or survey of New Zealanders views on CoOL. Most New Zealanders assume the meat we buy in our local supermarkets comes from New Zealand. But in fact, buying unlabelled meat at the supermarket is like playing 'lucky dip'. According to Statistics NZ, in 2002 we imported 9,204 tonnes of beef and veal, 953 tonnes of mutton, 2,078 tonnes of lamb and 16,862 tonnes of pork," Ms Kedgley said.

"A lot of this meat is sold unlabelled as fresh meat. Most of the pork comes from countries as diverse as China, Canada and Australia in carcass form, which is then processed into meat products such as ham, salami, sausages and bacon. Not only do these processed products not declare that the pork they contain comes from other countries, most of them say they are 'Made in New Zealand' or 'Manufactured in New Zealand'. This implies the product is a New Zealand product, made with New Zealand meat. This is misleading and deceptive."

Ms Kedgley will lodge a formal complaint under the Fair Trading Act about New Zealand's lack of CoOL, which at present is required only for wine and cheese. "As the international food standards setting body Codex acknowledges, the absence of a label can be just as deceptive as an incorrect label," she said. Ms Kedgley also today asks a Parliamentary Question on the subject in the House, and will speak on the subject in the general debate.

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