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Right to know where food comes from denied

28 November 2005

Govt denying NZers right to know where food comes from

New Zealand consumers will be shocked by the Government's decision to deny them the right to know where their food comes from, Green Party Safe Food Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

Food Safety Minister Annette King announced today that the Government will not implement Food Standard Australia New Zealand's (FSANZ) standard for mandatory country-of-origin labelling (CoOL) of food, saying "mandatory CoOL is potentially an unnecessary barrier to international trade". The Australian government has already announced that it will adopt the measure.

"Consumers have a fundamental right to know where their food comes from. It is scandalous that the Government is denying them this because of its ideological fixation with free trade," Ms Kedgley says.

"Now we're facing a farcical situation where New Zealand food sent to Australia must be labelled as 'Made in New Zealand', but food coming the other way won't have to have 'Made in Australia' on it. This totally disadvantages New Zealand growers in both markets.

"New Zealand already has mandatory country-of-origin labelling for wine, clothing and footwear. We can find out where our jandals and tee shirts come from, but not where our legs of lamb or mangoes come from. Most of our major trading partner, including the USA, the European Union, Canada and Australia, already have mandatory country-of-origin labelling on imported food.

"This action also breaches the principles of the joint trans-Tasman food standards, namely that consumers shall have access to adequate information to make informed purchasing decisions. It is frankly bizarre that on the one hand the Government has promised to work on a Buy Kiwi-Made programme, and on the other is denying consumers the ability to find out via a label whether food has been produced locally or imported.

"Nor has the Government offered any credible reason for refusing to adopt the joint labelling standard. Under the FSANZ treaty, New Zealand can only pull out of a standard if there are 'exceptional health, safety, third country trade, environmental or cultural factors.' It hasn't offered any such reason.

"Clearly it is only refusing to implement the mandatory standard because it is putting its free trade agenda ahead of consumers' right to know.

"Many consumers want to buy New Zealand-grown produce to support local growers and avoid the environmental damage caused by transporting food long distance. But the Government is denying them the information they need to make such ethical choices. In the absence of a country-of-origin label, many consumers assume the produce they buy is locally produced and have no idea so much of it is imported.

"Surely we have a right to know whether we are eating an Australian leg of lamb or a New Zealand one? Or whether we are eating New Zealand or Chinese garlic? Imported produce is not tested to see whether it contains illegal pesticide, other residues or is fumigated with methyl bromide. That's yet another reason why consumers have a right to know whether their produce is imported or not," Ms Kedgley says.

ENDS

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