27 Sep 2011

China vege import report dismissed

6:04 am on 27 September 2011

Horticulture NZ is dismissing an Australian TV report that frozen vegetables from China are entering Australia through New Zealand without being residue tested and without labelling identifying them as coming from China.

Today Tonight reported that New Zealand is being used as the back door into Australia for Chinese frozen vegetables.

According to the programme, the vegetables are initially imported into New Zealand and then repackaged with locally-grown vegetables.

It said tests on bags of frozen vegetables, mostly from New Zealand and China, showed residues of four pesticides that are banned in the European Union and are also under review in Australia.

Hort New Zealand dismissed the story as a case of "sour grapes" on the part of Australian growers who resent an increase in vegetable imports from New Zealand as a result of the transfer of vegetable processing capacity from Australia to New Zealand.

Chief executive Peter Silcock says testing proved that products coming from New Zealand met the requirements in terms of chemical residues and in labelling and the Ministry of Agriculture has confirmed that frozen vegetable exports to Australia comply with New Zealand food regulations.

However, Mr Silcock says Hort NZ does believe there could be amendments to New Zealand's food labelling laws so they have more 'country of origin' information.

He says phrases such as "made from local and imported ingredients" are not as helpful as they could be and the industry would like to see more specific labelling.