AUSVEG has again called for greater testing and protocols on vegetables imported from China after the cancer causing chemical formaldehyde was discovered in Chinese cabbages.
Chinese news services through the BBC are reporting that formaldehyde, the cancer-causing substance used to preserve laboratory specimens, has been sprayed on vegetables by Chinese growers in order to keep them fresh because local growers cannot afford refrigerated transport.
The Chinese state news service Xinhua claims that the practice of preserving fresh produce with formaldehyde has been common in eastern China for a number of years.
AUSVEG is the National Peak Industry Body representing Australia’s 9,000 vegetable and potato growers.
“Formaldehyde is an extremely dangerous chemical if consumed by humans and to hear reports of it being sprayed on food should raise serious concerns with Australian quarantine, the department of health and Australian consumers,” said AUSVEG Public Affairs Manager William Churchill.
In China’s south the Guangzhou Public Opinion Research Centre is reporting that over 45% of residents of the city are dissatisfied with food safety and that 37% said that they had suffered from food safety problems.
“It’s little wonder that the BBC are reporting that Chinese city dwellers have started growing their own vegetables because they don’t trust the commercially grown produce. One must ask if the food isn’t good enough for the Chinese to eat then why is so much of it being sent to Australia where we are expected to eat it?,” said Mr Churchill.
In the 2010/11 financial year China was the second largest importer of vegetables into Australia importing $108 million of produce, just behind New Zealand and ahead of Italy.
“Large amounts of Chinese vegetables make their way onto Australian supermarket shelves every year, and the Australian consumer is often none the wiser,” said Mr Churchill.
“As a result of news stories like this, consumers should have more information in order to make an informed decision about where their food is coming from. All produce should have clearer Country of Origin labels so that consumers can decide for themselves which foods they trust,” said Mr Churchill.
Formaldehyde is highly toxic to humans if ingested and is also an allergen and asthma trigger, particularly in young children.
“Australian vegetables are produced to a substantially higher standard and are frequently tested for anything out of the ordinary. Growers are often certified in multiple quality assurance schemes meaning Australian produce complies with some of the highest safety standards in the world,” said Mr Churchill.
Many frozen vegetable products found in Australian supermarkets originate in China.
“Currently, the Country of Origin declaration is quite hard to find on cans and bags of food and will often contain vague statements like Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients,” said Mr Churchill.
Recent research conducted by AUSVEG has found that 80 per cent of grocery buyers want to purchase Australian produce because they want to support Australian farmers and the farming industry. Additionally it was found that 67 per cent of Australian consumers would be willing to pay more for locally grown produce.
“If people were able to clearly make the distinction between foreign foods and domestically grown food it would help create a more competitive domestic farming sector and give consumers piece of mind.”
“When we see foreign products on supermarket shelves or in frozen food isles we see Aussie dollars propping up foreign industries and the consumers aren’t even aware of it. They have a right to make the distinction,” said Mr Churchill.
MEDIA CONTACT: William Churchill – Public Affairs Manager AUSVEG Phone: (03) 9822 0388, Mobile: 0411 166 748, Email: email@example.com