23 May 2014

Pork industry not buying argument against labels

8:16 pm on 23 May 2014

The pork industry isn't buying claims made Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye that country of origin labelling is almost meaningless if there are many ingredients from different countries in the product.

Nikki Kaye.

Nikki Kaye. Photo: SUPPLIED

The minister told the Primary Production select committee that Labour MP Damien O'Connor's proposed amendment to the Food Bill, that would have made country of origin labelling compulsory, would have locked New Zealand in to an expensive and at times pointless system. His amendment was voted down narrowly last week.

Ms Kaye told the select committee that New Zealand has a voluntary country of origin labelling system and that's how it should be.

"I believe ... that we'll be able to have more information than ever before about where those ingredients or those aspects of food come from right. But then the question is how is that information presented right.

"Now, I do believe that more in the advancement of technology and smart phone apps there'll be more opportunity than ever to get information about food, and our government is very interested in that, ensuring that consumers have access to information.

"Where I disagree is that labelling is the only and most effective way to present that information," she said.

However, New Zealand Pork chief executive Owen Symmans says the current labelling requirements for food are complicated and expensive for companies anyway. He believed the current system also leaves New Zealand consumers in the dark about the true origin of their food.

"We have a very complicated percentage labelling system in place now and where there is a major ingredient or a defining ingredient that has been imported which is perhaps say over 50 per cent of the product I think it's quite appropriate that that be identified.

"For example, you can buy manuka smoked ham in New Zealand and you look at the back of it and it says from local and imported product.

"The reality is the meat from which the ham is made is the imported product and a little bit of manuka smoke is added to it which is a New Zealand product.

"So I don't see any reason why, given that you've got percentage labelling and so for, therefore ham or the meat is identified, I don't see how it's hard to say it came from Mexico or Finland or wherever," Mr Symmans said.