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How do we avoid Canadian 'mad beef'?

How do we avoid Canadian 'mad beef' at the supermarket?

How will New Zealand consumers know if there is any Canadian beef at the supermarket, when there are no labels on imported meat showing where it has come from, Green MP Sue Kedgley asked today.

New Zealand authorities today confirmed that a cow in Canada has tested positive for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), or mad cow disease.

"This latest scare highlights the urgent need to introduce mandatory country of origin labelling of imported food here," Ms Kedgley said.

At present consumers have no way of knowing if there is any Canadian meat in the supermarket chiller or in other meat products, because there is no requirement to disclose the country of origin of meat or any other food product, Ms Kedgley said.

"It is an absurd situation when consumers don't even know where any imported Canadian beef ends up in New Zealand so they can avoid it if they choose," Ms Kedgley said.

"Consumers have a right to know where food they purchase comes from. This is especially the case with meat where there is a serious public health risk like mad cow disease. This is not just about consumer rights, it is also about human rights."

In a media statement today, New Zealand authorities said that we imported Canadian beef only sporadically.

"This is not good enough," Ms Kedgley said. "The authorities must tell us how much Canadian meat is imported each year, if any. They must also tell us exactly where the meat ends up, including whether it goes into processed meat products like sausages, some of which may carry misleading 'made in New Zealand' labels.

Ms Kedgley has been campaigning for mandatory country of origin labelling in New Zealand for imported produce, including meat, fish and vegetables. The New Zealand Government is opposing this at the trans-Tasman food standards setting body (Food Safety Authority Australia New Zealand) and has indicated it will opt out of any joint standard on country of origin labelling. This is unacceptable, Ms Kedgley said.

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