Hepatitis health scare highlights need for stronger measures
The weekend recall of frozen mixed berry products imported from China and South America amid fears of Hepatitis A contamination has highlighted the need for both stronger testing of imported produce and clearer Country of Origin Labelling laws.
“AUSVEG is deeply concerned by the news that some of these imported frozen berry products could have been contaminated with Hepatitis A, and is eager to see measures put in place to ensure such public health scares do not occur in the future,” said AUSVEG Deputy CEO, Andrew White.
AUSVEG is the leading horticultural body representing the interests of Australia’s 9,000 vegetable and potato growers.
“The incident has raised serious concerns about the level of testing and scrutiny applied to the imports of not just frozen berry products, but all fresh and frozen commodities being brought into Australia, including vegetables.”
“Given that Australian producers are required to comply with some of the world’s strictest quality assurance standards before their products are made available for public consumption, it is high time the same level of scrutiny is applied to imported produce to ensure public safety.”
Mr White said given the superior production standards employed by Australian growers, consumers would always be better off opting for local produce.
However, he added despite Australians’ widely acknowledged preference for buying local produce, ongoing confusion surrounding Country of Origin Labelling laws meant it was still often difficult for consumers to determine precisely where the products they were purchasing came from.
“In this latest incident, we are seeing berries sourced from Chile and China, being processed in China then shipped here, and seemingly posing a health risk to Australian consumers,” he said.
“AUSVEG has long called for clearer Country of Origin Laws which provide consumers with the clarity they need to exercise their preference to purchase Australian produce, wherever possible.”
Just last week, in a move welcomed by AUSVEG, the Australian Greens reintroduced legislation for mandatory Country of Origin Labelling.
“By prohibiting confusing terms such as ‘made from local and imported ingredients’, this legislation will help to give Australian consumers the information they need to act on their proven preference to buy Australian,” said Mr White.
“By providing clarity around Country of Origin, we are not only giving consumers a choice, but also giving local growers a platform to compete against manipulatively-labelled, cheaper and inferior foreign product.”
“What this latest incident also clearly demonstrates is that it is in the public interest to provide consumers with clarity about where the produce they are buying comes from, so they can avoid products of dubious origins.”
MEDIA CONTACT: Andrew White, AUSVEG, Deputy CEO
Phone: (03) 9882 0277, Mobile: 0409 989 575, Email: email@example.com