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Contaminated Cargo Ship Raises Fresh Concerns

30 July, 2004
Contaminated cargo ship raises fresh concerns

Green MP Sue Kedgley said today that the identification of the likely source of lead-poisoning in a shipment of corn from China has been a positive development, but it exposed further serious questions over the safety of our food imports.

Ms Kedgley, the Green Party's Food Safety spokesperson, said it was extraordinary that basic food staples are being shipped around the world in the same holds that previously contained heavy metals and called for regulations to be tightened and monitoring introduced to ensure that this could not happen again.

"It's shocking to think that a huge shipment of a staple food was packed into holds that had previously carried lead," said Ms Kedgley.

"The lead-contamination scare has exposed our current regulations and quality controls as lax and inadequate. The fact that the lead was picked up by accident raises serious questions as to whether contamination of this kind has happened before.

"If we are to persist with importing basic foods from all over the world we need to ensure it is carried in dedicated food carriers - or at least keep the shipping of heavy metals and other hazardous chemicals completely separate from ships that carry food," she said.

"We also need to ensure random checking of all imported produce to ensure it does not contain illegal heavy metal or pesticide contamination."

Ms Kedgley asked the Food Safety Authority to explain what happened to the other corn that was in the shipment. "At first the FSA told us that only 45 tonnes were affected. Then they told us another two batches of 45 tonnes were also contaminated. But this was from a shipment of 6000 tonnes.

"How do we know the rest of this shipment and other shipments, weren't similarly contaminated? Has the authority tested all the remaining corn in that 6000 tonne shipment?" she asked.

Ms Kedgley repeated her call for the FSA and Food Safety Minister Annette King to reveal the names of the other products that contained lead-contaminated cornflour. "So far we are only aware of four products out of 30 that were contaminated," said Ms Kedgley. "Surely consumers have the right to know so we can make up our own minds on whether we want to eat them.

"The Minister said on Tuesday that lead-contaminated products would be named 'in the next day or so' but yesterday Associate Minister Damian O'Connor, refused to release them. "His refusal to do so is damaging the credibility of all other products containing cornflour because many anxious consumers will be avoiding them," said Ms Kedgley. "It is also denying consumers their basic right to know."


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