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Food Safety review shows need for independence

22 September, 2004

Food Safety review shows need for independence

Green MP Sue Kedgley today called for the New Zealand Food Safety Authority to be made a completely independent body in order to restore consumer confidence in the safety of New Zealand's food supply.

Ms Kedgley, the Green Party's Safe Food spokesperson, said in response to the NZFSA's five-year review, that was announced today, that it seemed to be producer-driven rather than consumer focused.

"It should be of great concern that not one of the seven policy principles being proposed to guide the regulation of food is concerned with providing accurate information to consumers," said Ms Kedgley.

"This means country of origin, pesticide residue and the presence of GE could be completely ignored. The FSA's belief that information like this is an impediment to trade raises doubts about their commitment to the safety of the food supply itself.

"The Green Party welcomes the Authority's commitment to an overhaul of the food safety regime but doubts remain over how far it is prepared to go.

"There should be a major rethink of the NZFSA's role and the need to make it a genuinely independent body that consumers know would put their interests first and foremost. At present it is so closely aligned with MAF and the food industry that consumers cannot be sure whose interests the FSA is really serving.

"Incidents like the FSA's woefully slow response to the recent lead-contaminated corn shipment and their refusal to consider Country of Origin Labelling have undermined consumer confidence," she said.

However, Ms Kedgley said she welcomed attention the review would pay towards hygiene issues.

"The FSA's intention to raise hygiene standards is long-overdue, given that New Zealand has the highest rate of campylobacter poisoning in the developed world.

"Hygiene is important, but so too is testing the vast amount of imported food that comes into New Zealand to ensure that it is not contaminated with lead or illegal pesticide residues. The fact that about 90 per cent of our food imports enter the country untested is simply unacceptable.

"The Green Party has long argued that our food safety regime is lax, under-resourced and inadequate to such an extent that consumers cannot have confidence that their food is safe. We hope this five year review results in real progress for New Zealand's food supply," she said.

ENDS

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