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Briefing to incoming minister ignores consumers

11 December 2008
NZFSA briefing to incoming minister ignores consumers

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority has capitalised on the change of government and a new Minister with no background in food issues to quietly ditch all pretence of assisting consumers to make informed purchasing decisions about food, the Green Party says.

That was part of their original mandate, but under pressure from consumers over Country of Origin labelling the NZFSA's new mandate shows they have taken a hard line, making no mention of this role, Safe Food Spokesperson Sue Kedgley says.

The briefing paper puts the NZFSA Consumers' Forum on Food Safety at the top if its list of 'key domestic relationships' yet fails to acknowledge that the Forum, along with tens of thousands of consumers have consistently and repeatedly asked the government to institute mandatory country of origin labelling.

"Its time NZFSA stepped out of the Country of Origin Labelling debate and stopped preventing consumers having the right to know where their food comes from. Contrary to what NZFSA says, CoOL is not a commercial decision: it is not adequately regulated by the Fair Trading Act, as the Health Select Committee recently learned, and voluntary CoOL introduced by a few shops is often patchy, inconsistent and wrong.

"It is also high time that the NZFSA and the new government took action to ban the hormone disrupting chemical Bisphenol A, at the very least, from baby bottles. The paper acknowledges that Canada has taken this action. Bisphenol A is a chemical that leaches out of the polycarbonate plastic some baby bottles are made from and the white lining in many food cans. The paper fails to inform the new Minister of the potential risks of this substance, which include impaired brain development, premature puberty, breast cancer and prostate cancer. New studies also link it to diabetes and heart disease.

"It is not good enough that the NZFSA is simply 'maintaining a close watch on developments in the data and is ready to recommend appropriate action if necessary.' Action is necessary - it is long overdue, the new Government must take this opportunity to act swiftly for the sake of all New Zealanders.

"The briefing paper also tells the minister 'if food derived from cloned animals or their offspring ever enters the food chain, there is no need for specific regulation as these foods would be subject to general safety requirements under existing legislation'.

"Once again NZFSA is trying to deny consumers the right to important information about the food they eat. Whether or not there are any health issues relating to cloned meat has not been properly established, but there certainly are ethical issues - even the briefing acknowledges that the cloning can have negative effects on the health of the animals. Consumers have a right to make purchasing decisions based on ethical considerations just as much as they do on health considerations."


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