Origin of food law a good day for horticulture

Within 18 months Kiwi consumers will know where all fresh food on sale in New Zealand comes from, after the Country of Origin of Food Bill passed into law in Parliament in late-November 2018.

Foods covered under the Bill – which introduces mandatory labelling to provide information about the country of origin of foods – will include fresh or frozen fruit, vegetables, fish, seafood and meat, including cured pork products such as ham and bacon.

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi says the labelling scheme will enable consumers to make more informed decisions at the supermarket, by telling them where their food comes from.

“New Zealand consumers want to be well informed so we’re pleased to have been able to make this Bill proceed.

“Some members of the food industry have also been asking for country of origin labelling, which helps them to fairly identify foods produced in NZ and levels the playing field for producers.”

Food Safety Minister Damien O’Connor says the scheme has been designed to be easy and cheap to set up and run.

“That’s why the requirements apply only to foods with one ingredient and that are fresh, frozen, unprocessed or minimally processed – for example, cut, filleted or minced meat.

“However, the Bill has to be useful for industry in future so allows for the extension of country of origin labelling to other foods if needed at some later stage,” says Damien.

Kris says he’ll consult further on how to implement the new requirements and whether any foods need to be added or excluded. The Bill requires the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to make regulations within 18 months.

“The Government wants to make sure that country of origin labelling provides useful information for consumers and is workable for the food industry.”

Horticulture NZ chief executive Mike Chapman says growers have been asking for mandatory Country of Origin Labelling for fruit and vegetables in NZ from successive governments for more than 10 years.

“Once this Bill comes into law, consumers get to choose what to buy with full knowledge or where their fruit and vegetables come from.

“We commend the work done by the Green Party over that time and that they didn’t give up on this important law. Sue Kedgley started the journey when her member’s bill was drawn from the ballot in 2006. Steffan Browning took up the mantle and now Gareth Hughes has secured the numbers needed to make this law. This is a good day for horticulture.

“Our research shows more than 70 per cent of New Zealanders want mandatory Country of Origin Labelling for fruit and vegetables, so it’s great to see them finally getting what they want.”

Consumer NZ head of research Jessica Wilson says the law change is a much-needed first step towards better country-of-origin labelling.

Jessica says the Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Kris Faafoi also has the power to extend the standard to require labelling of other foods.

“We’ll be pushing for that to happen. At a minimum, all single-ingredient foods should be required to display a country-of-origin label.”

Jessica says mandatory labelling is required because relying on retailers to voluntarily label products had failed to give consumers the information they needed.

Green MP Gareth Hughes says they’ve established that people have a right to know where their food comes from.

“Kiwi consumers will now have greater information so they can exercise their consumer power and choice. It’s a good day for New Zealanders and for NZ producers.”


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