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Contaminated corn recall "nowhere near enough"

26 July, 2004

Contaminated corn recall "nowhere near enough" - Kedgley

Green MP Sue Kedgley today called on the New Zealand Food Safety Authority to release a list of every product with batch numbers that were produced using lead-contaminated cornflour imported from China.

"If the Food Safety Authority refuses to recall food products that have been contaminated with cornflour containing 100 times more lead than is permissible by law, then the least they can do is inform consumers what these products are," said Ms Kedgley the Green Party's Food Safety spokesperson.

"Consumers can then make up their own mind as to whether or not they want to eat products containing lead-contaminated cornflour.

"It is a basic consumer's right to know what is in the food we eat. New Zealanders have a right to know whether they have unwittingly purchased products that were made with the contaminated cornflour.

"It is simply not acceptable for the Food Authority to continue to stone-wall New Zealand consumers - presumably in an effort to protect the interests of food-producing companies.

"The Authority's assertion that products containing contaminated cornflour pose no health risk is absurd. Lead is a hazardous substance that remains in the body and has been scientifically proven, even in low concentrations, to impair a child's capacity for skills as elementary as reading, writing and concentrating.

"We call on the Government to tell us immediately what products are safe to consume and what are not."

Ms Kedgley has obtained trade statistics that show that the importation of corn flour from China was not a one-off event as the Authority claimed. They indicate that corn flour and corn seed are imported from China on a regular basis - in August last year 8000 tonnes of unmilled corn was imported into New Zealand.

"We need to trace back and test this corn as well, to ensure it was not contaminated and to find out how extensive the problem is. We also need to find out where this substantial quantity of corn seed was milled and where it ended up in our food supply," she said.

Ms Kedgley said a wide-ranging inquiry was needed to establish the reason for the extremely high levels of lead contamination in the cornflour, and how widespread the problem is.

"If the lead contamination is a result of high lead levels in soil where the corn seed was grown, then we need to make sure that other products imported from China are not grown in similarly contaminated areas," she said.

ENDS

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