New Zealand’s Ministry of Health is worried that pending changes to the country’s Food Act are too sensitive to business concerns and are not focused enough on critical food safety issues, according to the New Zeland Herald.
The Herald reported yesterday that an email made available by an Official Information Act revealed the Ministry is concerned that Cabinet-level review on the proposed changes (summary available here: http://www.nzfsa.govt.nz/policy-law/projects/domestic-food-review/two-page-summary.pdf) do not discuss how the amendments would protect public health.
The email reads, “The [Cabinet] paper makes no mention of the fundamental purpose safety legislation (i.e. to protect human health), no discussion of the extent of foodbourne [sic] illnesses in NZ and no discussion of whether the proposed changes are good, bad or neutral for human health.”
New Zealand’s Food Safety minister, Kate Wilkinson, dismissed concerns over the memo and defended the proposed changes.
“We’re confident the new bill will improve food safety and provide greater business certainty,” said Wilkinson. “Both are extremely important and have received close attention.”
New Zealand politicians echoed concerns that the review was overly focused on reducing the burden on business.
Sue Kedgley, a lawmaker and food safety advocate, expressed deep concern over the memo to the Herald.
“What is the point of reviewing a whole Food Act if you’re not even looking at what impact it’s going to have on human health or on food safety?” said Kedgley.
“What actually concerns me is that it seems to be principally focused on reducing compliance costs for businesses and not looking at the whole issue of food safety at all,” added Kedgley.
Ministry of Health group manager Graeme Cillespie shot down the notion that the email reflected the Ministry was concerned about the bill.
“The points raised in the email were intended to improve the quality of advice to Cabinet by ensuring the effects of food safety were more explicit,” said Gillespie.
“The email identifies that these are addressed in the review report but have not been brought forward into the Cabinet paper. The Ministry of Health does not have any concerns about the ability of the proposed Food Bill to ensure food safety,” added Gillespie.
According to the New Zealand Food Safety Authority (NZFSA), New Zealand’s food regulatory system has not been thoroughly reviewed for over 30 years.