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Food sickness costs a ‘gross exaggeration’

Food sickness costs a ‘gross exaggeration’

Food sickness costs being used to justify the controversial Food Bill are a ‘gross exaggeration’ according to the think tank the New Zealand Centre for Political Research.

Research undertaken into the Food Bill by Centre founder Dr Muriel Newman has raised concerns about the $162 million cost of foodborne illness identified in a government report and being used to justify the proposed legislation.

“The $162 million figure is a gross exaggeration of what most people understand to be the real ‘cost’ of illness”, she said. “A breakdown of the figures in the report, Estimating the Economic Cost of Foodborne Illness in NZ, prepared for the New Zealand Food Safety Authority, reveals that only $6 million is the direct cost of health care. The rest is made up of the almost $17 million cost to the government of setting and enforcing food hygiene standards, $12 million in business compliance costs, and a $27 million estimate of workforce losses caused when people are ill. The lion’s share of the cost - $100 million – is essentially a guestimate of the value private individuals place on not getting sick.

“As it stands, the Food Bill is designed to introduce a new regulatory regime for food producers and suppliers. By requiring businesses to tailor their food safety procedures to the level of risk they manage, the intention is to reduce the incidence of foodborne disease and better align New Zealand’s food safety requirements with those of our trading partners.

“Although the Bill attracted only 66 submissions, many submitters raised concerns about the proposed increase in compliance costs and questioned whether it was new legislation or better policing of existing food safety requirements that is really needed”, Dr Newman said.

Writing on the Centre’s NZCPR.com website the former MP says that given the government’s commitment to encouraging wealth creation and reducing compliance costs on small business, there may be better ways of dealing with New Zealand’s food poisoning problem than a total re-regulation of the whole food industry. “Don’t forget that it was the Labour Government that first started work on this Bill in 2003. Times have changed and maybe costly new regulation is not the way to deal with this problem”, she said.

For more information:
NZCPR Weekly: “Does Our Food Industry Need New Regulation?

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