Food safety review lacks true independence

Soil & Health is concerned that the review of some New Zealand Food Safety Authority’s (NZFSA) decisions including A1-A2 milk, artificial sweetener aspartame and campylobacter, lacks the independence required.

“In a fox in charge of the henhouse scenario, the NZFSA who was being criticised for its decisions, decided on a review, drafted terms of reference, and then effectively chose their reviewer, Dr Stuart Slorach,” said Soil & Health Association spokesperson Steffan Browning.

“This exercise is unlikely to be anything more than a deferral of the A1-A2 debate, a whitewash of NZFSA practices and a Trojan horse for even more harmonisation with international food standards regulator Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex), with New Zealanders losing even more sovereignty and control of their food supply and its safety.”

“Dr Slorach as a previous chair of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and also chair of Codex, while heavily qualified in international food safety risk management, is far too close to the industry biased science decisions that NZFSA have used for their aspartame positioning, and he will struggle to objectively look at the issue.”

Aspartame has been implicated in a range of serious health effects and Soil & Health and Safe Food Campaign have lobbied NZFSA to step in and facilitate withdrawal of the compound from New Zealand foods.

“Due to Soil & Health’s particular interest in aspartame, and as a consumer representative, I was invited to meet with the reviewer,” said Mr Browning.

“However on questioning Dr Slorach’s ability to be objective on the subject of aspartame, considering the pro aspartame stance currently taken by EFSA, he showed a defensive bias towards his EFSA scientists’ report on the safety of aspartame, and Soil & Health will be very pleasantly surprised if he sees any problems with the NZFSA approach to the neurotoxin. NZFSA quoted EFSA reports in its responses to independent research and consumer concerns about aspartame safety.”

”Dr Slorach has interviewed a list of very appropriate people, however that should not lend authenticity to the review’s findings if the concerns of consumers, independent researchers and NGOs are not given practical weighting.”

“The terms of reference are about NZFSA’s decision making, compared with international best practice, and with a head of Codex doing the review we can expect recommendations to be focused on harmonisation with EFSA and Codex. NZFSA’s more obvious point of difference with other similar food safety authorities is that it uses a risk management framework and others use a risk assessment framework that incorporates the precautionary principle.”

“Regardless the decision making approaches, NZFSA, EFSA and Codex all share a history of being weighted towards economic benefits and trade imperatives. Soil & Health has long pointed out that New Zealand representation to Codex rarely represents New Zealand consumer concerns.”

“Harmonisation of food safety decision making processes will not relieve the very real distress that people in NZ and around the world were experiencing on a daily basis from aspartame poisoning. The challenge is with Dr Slorach.”

Soil & Health advocates for a food supply free of toxic synthetic ingredients and shares a vision of an Organic 2020.

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