12 May 2014

Push for country of origin labels grows

1:41 pm on 12 May 2014

A political push for country of origin food labelling is growing, with Labour moving to make it part of new food legislation.

Labour food safety spokesperson Damien O'Connor is proposing an amendment to include compulsory labelling in the Food Bill which has just been reported back to Parliament.

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Green Party agriculture spokesperson Steffan Browning has described it as an extraordinary turnaround by Labour which he said resisted the idea during the nine years it was in Government.

He's still trying trying to get a private members bill drawn in the ballot to introduce it.

But Mr O'Connor said his push to get country of origin labelling into legislation did not mark a sudden turn-around for Labour, which he said had been committed to it for four or five years at least.

"Look we've had it as party policy since the last election, we've had discussion about this and have, for some time, been committed to country of origin labelling. And I certainly spoke openly with (Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye) when she talked of reintroducing the Food Bill that it should include country of origin labelling."

Mr O'Connor said the Government was becoming increasingly isolated on the issue.

Further comment

Horticulture New Zealand supports the campaign.

"The campaign for mandatory country of origin labelling has been important to pretty much every commercial fruit and vegetable grower in New Zealand or quite some years, even back before the start of Horticulture New Zealand I think, so we're going back at least 10 years,'' said spokesperson Leigh Catley.

"I think there is more momentum. I think as far as the consumer is concerned, people want to know where their food comes from.

''There's definitely a stronger feeling about that now than two or three years ago. I think people are very aware that it does matter where their food comes from and if you want to buy local it's hard to do that if you are not given the information that you can base those sorts of choices on."

Leigh Catley said New Zealand is finding itself increasingly out of sync with the rest of the world on country of origin labelling.

"Out of the 120 or so countries we export horticultural products to, there are only about five or six that don't have some sort of mandatory country of origin labelling and I'm talking about counties like the Philippines and Vietnam.

''We would imagine we would have a more robust system in place in New Zealand now to support consumers and give them information."