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A (secret) recipe for disaster

A (secret) recipe for disaster

Decisions about what goes into New Zealanders' food and even what goes onto the label will continue to be made in secrecy as a result of an Ombudsman's ruling, Green MP Sue Kedgley revealed today.

The Ombudsman has upheld a refusal by the Minister of Food Safety to release information under the Official Information Act regarding any decisions made by the Australia New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council, on the grounds that the council is an international organisation.

The ministerial council makes decisions on what is in our food: what ingredients are legal and illegal; the level of pesticide residues allowable; how food is produced and how food is labelled.

"It means we haven't a clue about how controversial decisions, such as the recent one to allow irradiated tropical fruit into New Zealand, are made or what pressures have been brought to bear," said Sue Kedgley, the Green Food Safety spokesperson.

"Given that this Ministerial Council makes decisions which directly affect our everyday lives, such as whether genetically engineered food may enter our food chain, how its safety has been assessed and how it will be labelled, it is totally unacceptable for it to operate behind a veil of secrecy.

"We won't know who lobbied the council, what advice it received and why it made the labelling decisions on what's acceptable for us and what isn't.

"It is outrageous that food policy decisions are exempt from the Official Information Act, and that the government is colluding with the Australian Federal and State governments in keeping this information secret from New Zealanders and Australians," said Ms Kedgley.

"This is yet another blow to our sovereignty and our ability to participate in decisions that are made about our food."

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