12 Dec 2016

Bakers upset at regulation-dodging online sellers

9:33 pm on 12 December 2016

Bakers and other commercial outlets say people who sell food online are avoiding the huge cost of complying with new food safety regulations.

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Photo: 123RF

They want the government to crack down on the growing number of businesses making money by selling products on the internet, from cupcakes to imported goods.

Baking Industry Association president Kevin Gilbert said Christmas was a stressful time of year, and many in the industry were facing the added pressure and cost of registering for the new Food Safety Act to come into force for existing businesses from March next year.

"With Christmas and then New Year, and then people trying to take holidays, it's not really leaving much time to get things done, particularly when things are still in a bit of a state of confusion."

It would cost some bakers thousands of dollars and many hours to comply with the new rules, which were being phased in over three years, he said.

"There's checklists to fill in, in terms of when you get deliveries in, when things go out, when you're making pies, when you're making the pie fillings, when you're reheating, there are checklists to fill in all the way."

The new rules would create a uniform standard across the industry, he said, but those who needed regulating the most were either exempt or flying under the radar.

"The onslaught of all the social media sales, people making product in their home that they then sell on social media to the public, that's what we'd like the MPI to bring under the same control."

Hospitality New Zealand operations and advocacy manager Tracy Scott said it was not fair that people who sold their food online were avoiding paying huge compliance costs.

"A huge bugbear for us, take an example of Airbnb, where people in the non-commercial accommodation sector don't have to pay the taxes and compliance costs a normal business would have to pay, but at the same time they're cooking these people breakfasts and dinner and serving them beer and wine, and they're not licensed to do so."

She wanted the government to look at New York's bylaws, which made it difficult for people to operate in the non-commercial food sector.

The Ministry for Primary Industries said it regularly received complaints about internet food sales.

Its food and beverage manager, Sally Johnston, said a compliance team often checked Facebook and other social media and its monitoring system was robust.

"We can't be everywhere, we can't see everything, so it is a little bit a joint responsibility for those that are purchasing the food and us to collectively keep an eye on how food safety's going in New Zealand."

Ms Johnston said people who made money from online operations like Airbnb did not have to comply with the new rules but they did have to meet certain regulations.

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