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Food Ministers Cook Up A Secret Recipe

11 December, 2003

Food ministers cook up a secret recipe

The secrecy surrounding a top-level meeting of trans-Tasman food ministers in Auckland tomorrow is excessive and further indication of how little input ordinary New Zealanders have into decisions about what they eat, Green MP Sue Kedgley said today.

Despite a total publicity black-out, Ms Kedgley has discovered that the Australia New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council is meeting tomorrow at the Hyatt Regency in Auckland. The council oversees everything to do with food, from irradiation to GE ingredients to labelling to how food is manufactured and what is in it. New Zealand is represented by Food Safety Minister Annette King and is entitled to just one vote on the 10-member council.

"Officials will only confirm that the agenda for the meeting is confidential, all papers and discussions relating to the meeting are confidential and that any communication the Council chooses to make will be made in the form of an advisory after the meeting," said Ms Kedgley the Green Food Safety spokesperson.

The Council's documents aren't even available under the Official Information Act, as it has been ruled to be an international organisation.

"Frankly, it is disgraceful that New Zealand is reduced to the status of a state of Australia when decisions are made about what we eat and that such decisions are shrouded in a level of secrecy that the CIA or the Masons would be proud of," Ms Kedgley said.

"We suspect tomorrow's meeting will discuss country of origin labelling of food and possibly the addition of folate to all flour produced in Australia and New Zealand. But the Council's obsession with secrecy means that we just don't know what they'll talk about, what arguments they will consider or what decisions they'll make.

"It is simply unacceptable for such important discussions to be held behind closed doors, and for New Zealand to have such a small say in what New Zealanders eat."

ENDS


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