Kiwis want to take off the blindfold we have when it comes to buying food. That’s the message of the Soil & Health Association, which welcomes the Consumers’ Right to Know (Labelling of Country of Origin of Food) Bill currently before a parliamentary select committee. The Bill requires all single component foods, packaged and unpackaged, to display their country of origin.
Soil & Health has been campaigning for mandatory country of origin labelling for over a decade, since the government opted out of joining Australia in mandating country of origin labelling under the Food Standards Code on the grounds it would be an impediment to trade. With the exception of wine, country of origin labelling is only voluntary in New Zealand.
“All of New Zealand’s major trading partner countries have country of origin labelling including Australia, the US, the UK, countries in Europe and many Asian countries,” says Karen Summerhays, spokesperson for Soil & Health.
“While footwear and clothing is required to identify where it comes from, food isn’t. This bill aims to extend that requirement to fresh fruit, meat, fish and vegetables, and other single component foods such as grains, nuts, bulk flour and oil.”
“It’s becoming more common that New Zealanders are wanting to avoid genetically engineered food, food with pesticide residues, or food coming from countries with poor labour conditions, poor environmental and animal welfare standards, but cannot easily choose to avoid products from those countries when shopping here.”
“Pesticide residues in imported food and the health effects of them are an urgent consumer and health issue. Although good labelling exists in some supermarkets, voluntary labelling is often either not working or is poorly utilised, and is definitely not enforceable under the law.”
“Consumers must be able to make their own, informed food choices. Mandatory country of origin labelling is a step towards allowing consumers to do this,” says Summerhays.
There has been widespread support in New Zealand for country of origin labelling. A recent survey conducted by Consumer NZ and Horticulture NZ found that 71% of Kiwis want mandatory country of origin labelling and 65% said they looked for country of origin labelling when they were shopping.
The submission period for the Bill closes this Thursday the 18th of May at 5pm.
Soil & Health is one of the oldest organic organisations in the world and advocates for the consumer’s right to have fresh, healthy, organic food free of GE, pesticides and additives, and the right to know what is in their food and water.
Contact: Karen Summerhays
Spokesperson, Soil & Health Association
021 043 7858