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Feds: Challenge to Maintain Consumer Confidence

21 March 2001 PR 41/2001

Federated Farmers: Challenge to Maintain Consumer Confidence

"International consumers must understand clearly and unequivocally that New Zealand's sheep flocks are free of scrapie and our cattle herds free of BSE," said Charlie Pedersen, Chairman of Dairy Farmers of New Zealand.

"Our problem is that in times such as these, when animal disease concerns in Europe are on the front page on every newspaper, it is difficult to maintain consumer trust in New Zealand's science-based food safety regime."

"New Zealand has nailed its trading colours to the mast of sound science and we know the steps we take to protect ourselves from BSE or FMD must also be based on sound science."

"Consumer nervousness in Europe because of BSE is spreading. Just last week Malta imposed a blanket ban on the importation of beef from animals over 18 months of age for no sound scientific justification."

"It is vital that international consumers are told clearly and unequivocally that New Zealand's sheep flocks are free of scrapie and our cattle herds free of BSE, and that we have the science to prove it."

"But this does not mean that New Zealand will be protected against the possibility of cases of variant Creutzfeldt Jacob Disease (vCJD). There are a large number of people living in New Zealand now, who travelled to and lived in the United Kingdom and ate British beef over the BSE risk period. There are also many New Zealanders that have eaten imported products containing British beef marrow and spinal material."

"This suggests that sooner or later we may see a New Zealand person suffering from variant Creutzfeldt Jacob Disease linked to exposure to BSE in British beef products, despite our herds and flocks being free of BSE and scrapie," warned Mr Pedersen.

"If such an event occurs we will be totally dependent on the faith and confidence international consumers have in the scientific evidence of the health status of our animal population. It will be crucial to defend our reputation as a safe food producer on the grounds of sound science, our past record for integrity and the rules of trade embodied in the WTO," Mr Pedersen concluded.


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