Food Bill to make food safer – not restrict small traders

Press Release – New Zealand Government

Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson says opponents of the Government’s draft Food Bill are scaremongering about its impacts.
Hon Kate Wilkinson
Minister for Food Safety
7 January 2012

Food Bill to make food safer – not restrict small traders

Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson says opponents of the Government’s draft Food Bill are scaremongering about its impacts.

“Much of what they claim is untrue and causing many people unnecessary concern,” Ms Wilkinson says.

“The Bill is designed to simplify 30-year-old food safety regulations and ultimately aims to reduce our high level of food-borne illness and corresponding economic cost. It’s estimated food-borne illness caused a $162 million loss to the New Zealand economy in 2010.”

“The current system is prescriptive and based on rules and inspections – which are often costly to food businesses. The new regime will create efficiencies for traders and improve food safety.

Ms Wilkinson says the Bill’s opponents are whipping up fears that small traders such as community gardens, food co-ops, heritage seed banks, farmers markets, bake sales and roadside fruit and vegetable stalls will be caught up in costly red tape.

“That is simply not true. This Bill won’t in any way affect people’s right to grow food and to then exchange, sell or trade it.

“Small traders such as those running roadside stalls or selling their own horticultural produce at markets are generally classed as low risk and will not need to register. They will simply receive a free ‘food handler guidance’ information pamphlet.

“Food grown at home for personal or family consumption, or given away to friends is excluded from the measures in the Bill,” Ms Wilkinson says.

The new regime will have three regulatory levels of safety based on risk, with those food businesses classed as high risk (such as restaurants or baby food manufacturers) having the highest level of requirements. Businesses presenting a medium level risk (such as bakeries and pre-packaged food processors) would be subject to national programmes (a more flexible and generic approach), with those presenting low risk receiving food handler guidance.

The draft Bill has been through a full public consultation process and has been passed by Parliament’s Primary Production Select Committee with cross-party support.

“This is an important piece of legislation and I am conscious that Labour and the Greens have new Food Safety spokesmen. I am more than happy to meet with these parties to discuss the Bill and any concerns they have to ensure that it delivers what we all want – safer food and a reduction in illness, without increasing compliance costs to industry.”

“The Bill is intended to modernise and enhance our domestic food safety regime – not over-regulate it.

“I encourage people to visit www.foodsafety.govt.nz to read what the Bill actually contains, and not to listen to the scaremongering from some of the Bill’s opponents.”

ENDS

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