New Zealand's controversial Food Bill has passed its third and final reading in the Parliament, four years after it was introduced. Members of Parliament voted unanimously for the legislation aimed to strengthen the country's food safety standards.
In a report by Radio NZ, the Food Bill will set new regulations for growing and preparing food for sale and export. The original legislation had undergone major changes after community gardens and growers expressed their fears of high compliance costs.
According to Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye, the new food bill is based on food safety risks related to the specific types of businesses. The legislation will also tighten provisions for product recalls in the event of health scares.
The Food Bill will save New Zealand's food industry $40 million in compliance costs annually. It has replaced the 1981 Food Act and took 10 years in-the-making.
Addressing Food Safety Issues
Chinese consumers had thought of New Zealand's dairy products less safe compared to other major competitors in the U.S. and Europe. According to a Massey University survey, the Chinese were still spooked by Fonterra's botulism scare in 2013.
In a university survey of 531 people in China's Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu Province, in October 2013, over 28 percent of Chinese consumers thought milk products from New Zealand were "not very safe." New Zealand was rated the least safe compared to Australia's 14.8 percent, the U.S. with 13.2 percent and Europe with 12.5 percent.
According to Steve Flint, Massey University professor of food safety and microbiology, the research only proved that Fonterra's botulism scare had affected the perception of Chinese consumers regarding New Zealand's dairy products. The power of publicity had influenced the people's trust in food quality based on reports.
Fonterra, New Zealand's biggest exporter of baby formula pleaded guilty to four charges where it failed to meet standards for animal products. Fonterra also acknowledged it did not inform officials soon enough about a possible contamination despite being aware of the problem first-hand.
Since New Zealand relies on food exports, the country cannot afford to damage its reputation in the international arena.