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China: Consumer protection more vital than trade

29 September 2008

Consumer protection more vital than trade in Chinese food scandal

In the wake of the European Union's ban on imports of all Chinese milk-related products for children over the weekend, the New Zealand Government must put consumers before trade deals in its handling of the melamine scandal, Green Party MP Sue Kedgley says.

"This weekend the European Union banned all imports on Chinese milk-related products for children such as biscuits and chocolate," Ms Kedgley says.

"Country after country is moving to protect consumers by banning food imports even potentially tainted with melamine. Yet our own Government won't recall products known to be contaminated or even label food with its country of origin so consumers can protect themselves," Ms Kedgley says.

"New Zealand's Food Safety Authority has found dangerously high levels of melamine in Chinese White Rabbit sweets but has refused to recall them, instead just warning consumers not to eat them. There is also a second product that the FSA found to be contaminated but - incomprehensibly - they refuse to either name or recall it.

"So while our Government busies itself with hiding information from its citizens - presumably to protect trade interests with China - the United States, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Canada, Singapore, Peru, several African countries and even China have either banned imports or recalled some products.

"Is the Government's failure to act because we have a free trade deal with China and it is worried about upsetting the Chinese Government? Is this why consumers in so many other countries are receiving better protection from unsafe food than consumers in New Zealand?

"The Government must recall the melamine contaminated products found here and ban imports of potentially contaminated products until they have been tested.

"They must now also admit that Country of Origen labelling of food is a safety issue and give New Zealand consumers the information to make their own choices about what they eat," Ms Kedgley says.

"It is distressing to think that the price of trade deals might be our health and our national autonomy."


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