7 Jan 2012

Labour threatens to pull backing for Food Bill

9:26 am on 7 January 2012

Labour is considering withdrawing its backing of a bill to improve food safety unless the Government ensures small growers will not be weighed down by red tape.

The Food Bill, which has passed its first reading in Parliament, would replace the Food Act 1981. It contains food safety rules for people growing and preparing food for selling, bartering or donating, but not for personal use.

If the bill passes into law, market gardeners or people selling produce at market or roadside stalls may face increased pressure to prove their food handling practices are safe from the garden to the table.

Labour MP Damien O'Connor says it is unfair to lump smaller growers and sellers in with bigger operations and he would like some clarification from the government on how they might be affected.

Mr O'Connor says it would be a shame for smaller traders or volunteer groups to be lumbered with regulation more suited to supermarkets, restaurants and major food producers.

He says Labour will make a final call on whether to support the bill by the end of the month.

The Green Party is concerned the bill could give too much power to those policing the proposed new rules for growing, processing and selling food.

The Greens agriculture spokesperson Steffan Browning says he is concerned people appointed to enforce the rules would get immunity from criminal or civil liablility as they carry out their duties searching premises and seizing produce.

Mr Browning says this would provide food safety officers and local authorities with more protection against their actions than police officers get.