The importance of strong Country of Origin Labelling reform has been highlighted by a recent international health scare, with four new cases of hepatitis A being linked to frozen berries imported into New Zealand.

AUSVEG claims that the New Zealand health scare, which echoes the outbreak of hepatitis A linked to imported frozen berries which occurred earlier this year in Australia, highlights the need for regulations which give consumers the power to choose where their food comes from.

Vital reforms to Australia’s food labelling system are now a step closer, with a Consultation Regulation Impact Statement on the Australian Government’s proposed reforms to Australia’s Country of Origin Labelling system released on Friday afternoon for public comment.

“Given the current situation in New Zealand and the similarities to what took place in Australia earlier this year, it’s more important than ever that Australia has effective Country of Origin Labelling,” said AUSVEG Deputy CEO Mr Andrew White.

AUSVEG is the leading horticultural body representing more than 9,000 Australian vegetable and potato growers, and has been an outspoken advocate of labelling reform over many years.

“In recent weeks, we’ve seen New Zealand raise concerns in the Ministerial Forum on Food Regulation about the impact that Australian Country of Origin Labelling reforms could have on New Zealand food producers who import food into Australia,” said Mr White.

“All Australia’s reforms will do is introduce transparency into our labelling system so that consumers can make informed decisions about their food purchases.”

“The only producers who could possibly be hurt by this kind of reform are those who are importing dangerous produce from countries with lax food safety standards and want to hide this vital information from consumers.”

The new health scare has led to New Zealand’s opposition parties calling on the Government to introduce mandatory Country of Origin Labelling. New Zealand currently only has voluntary labelling laws.

“It’s encouraging to see both the New Zealand Labour Party and the Green Party of New Zealand come forward and call for mandatory Country of Origin Labelling,” said Mr White.

“Shoppers deserve to have this kind of information available to them in the supermarket aisle, and New Zealand’s statement to the Ministerial Forum goes against all principles of consumer rights.”

“Transparent food labelling must apply equally to all countries, regardless of trading relationships, so that consumers get the information they want and sorely need.”


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