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Meat industry-led trials out of step with US Safety Reforms

For Immediate Use

Meat industry-led trials out of step with USA’s beefed-up food safety reforms

Historic changes to the American food safety system highlight just how out of step with international trends New Zealand’s producer-led meat inspection trials are.

Earlier this week, in a 73-25 vote the U.S. Senate passed an historic food safety bill.

The bill, which is expected to become law by the end of the year despite a procedural hiccup, is the biggest overhaul of America’s food safety system in 70 years.

It gives the Food and Drug Administration hugely improved powers to prevent food contamination outbreaks by enabling forced recalls of food and stricter and more frequent inspection of facilities.

“Growing concern amongst U.S. consumers that the food they’re eating could make them sick or even kill them has brought this bill about. Around 76 million people get food poisoning in the United States each year and 5,000 die as a result,” says NZPSA National Secretary Richard Wagstaff.

“New standards will be placed on imports to prevent unsafe foreign food being dumped on the American market.

“Given this, we should be doing everything possible to assure the United States that our meat is safe and of high quality. Putting New Zealand meat companies in charge of their own inspection doesn’t aid that argument when so many food scares have caused Americans to distrust what’s on their table and be in fear of their own breakfast!

“The only thing that guarantees the high quality and reputation of New Zealand meat and the trust of overseas markets and consumers is independent inspection,” says Richard Wagstaff.

“The food safety bill has widespread public support and follows years of lobbying by U.S. consumer groups and families whose loved ones have fallen victim to foodborne illnesses,” says Richard Wagstaff.

The country has experienced numerous food scares in recent years. One of the most tragic was in 1993 when three children died after eating contaminated and undercooked meat from restaurants operated by fast food chain Jack in the Box

Michael Nole was one of the victims. His mother Diana lobbied for food-safety reforms after his death. While this bill doesn’t cover meat, poultry or eggs because the Department of Agriculture regulates them, Diana Nole has been reported as saying the bill is a step forward.

“It seems ludicrous that New Zealand would ignore the lessons America has learnt and allow industry to self-regulate rather than stringently enforce independent third-party monitoring,” says Richard Wagstaff.

“As America takes heed and gives its regulators new tools to keep consumers safe we’re heading in the opposite direction and giving all power to producers to monitor themselves.

“Do we really want to risk nearly $6 billion worth of meat exports for the sake of the paltry savings getting rid of independent inspectors would bring? That would be very foolish indeed,” says Richard Wagstaff.

ENDS

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