New Zealand consumers deserve urgent commitment by government agencies to Mandatory Country of Origin Labelling, considering the main excuse by Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is no longer valid, according to the Soil & Health Association of New Zealand.
“Access to the United States market has been the most used example of why New Zealand doesn’t support Mandatory Country of Origin Labelling (MCoOL), yet consumers in the U.S. have now had MCoOL introduced,” said Soil & Health spokesperson Steffan Browning.
Soil & Health is part of more than 25 organisations in a group, ‘CoOL New Zealand’, formed to continue the push for change in New Zealand’s country of origin labelling laws. At an official launch hosted by Horticulture New Zealand in Wellington this morning, CoOLNZ officially launched www.cool.org.nz – Country of Origin Labelling website and facebook group ‘I Want A CoOL New Zealand’.
Country of Origin Labelling became effective in the United States for meat and perishable agricultural commodities such as fresh fruits and vegetables on September 30 *. Fish and shellfish had been subject to COOL requirements since April 2005. Products falling under US CoOL requirements now include beef, lamb, pork, chicken, goat, wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish, fresh fruits and vegetables, and some nuts such as peanuts, pecans and macadamia nuts.
“Meat and milk powder exports particularly to the United States are the commodities generally believed to be responsible for the lack of fair labelling in New Zealand, however Meat & Wool New Zealand said in the October 6 Farmers Weekly that there was not an issue of cost to them.”
“Considering the United States move, it is blatantly unfair that any other exporter or a free trade philosophy should prevent Kiwi consumers from full country of origin choice when purchasing their food.”
“Australian consumers also have vastly better CoOL choice than Kiwis, and New Zealand maintains a difference to Australia contrary to most other Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) decisions.”
“More and more often, New Zealanders are hearing of pesticide or additive residues, poor labour conditions, environmental degradation and animal welfare issues from a range of countries, but cannot easily choose to avoid products from those countries when shopping here.”
“Soil & Health’s own residue sampling showed the pesticide dimethoate in Australian tomatoes purchased in New Zealand, and although New Zealand growers do not use the chemical, shoppers are often not able to tell the difference as our current law has no mandatory Country of Origin Labelling.”
Dimethoate, a systemic organo-phosphate insecticide, is used as an insecticidal dip to kill the Queensland fruit fly in produce imported from Australia to New Zealand.
“Pesticide residues in imported food and the health effects of them are an urgent consumer and health issue. Although fantastic labeling examples such as at most New World supermarkets do exist, voluntary labeling as promoted by Foodstuffs or Progressive through their supermarkets is often either not working or is poorly utilized, and certainly not enforceable.”
“Soil & Health submitted to the Parliamentary Health Select Committee in support of the 39,000 signature Green Party- initiated petition calling for mandatory CoOL. ”
New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA) was a submitter against CoOL to the Parliamentary select committee, which recently considered the Green Party initiated petition of 39,000 Kiwis wanting MCoOL.
“Consumers wanting to avoid growth hormone and antibiotic laced meat deserve to be able to bypass products from the huge proportion of imported pork. Whatever the soothing tones from authorities on melamine or other toxins, consumers must be able to make their own choices,” said Mr Browning
Soil & Health promotes a vision of an Organic 2020 with emphasis on locally produced healthy food.
* U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Marketing Service web site at http://www.ams.usda.gov