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Choudhary: New Food Bill Essential For New Zealand

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Labour Food Safety spokesperson Ashraf Choudhary is welcoming likely changes to the Food Act 1981, saying that New Zealand, as a food-exporting nation, needs to combat unacceptable levels of food-borne illness.

Ashraf Choudhary said reform of the Act had become a major focus for the New Zealand Food Safety Authority, established under the Labour Government.

"The reform process began with the Domestic Food Review, initiated while Labour was in office, but there has been a need for regulatory reform of the food safety regime for many years.

"Food-borne illness continues to be a huge issue in this country. We need to combat what are unacceptable statistics for a developed country," Ashraf Choudhary said.

"Campylobacter infection reached a peak of 14,790 cases in 2003, a rate of 396/100,000 population, three times the rate in Australia and 30 times the rate in the United States. That gave New Zealand the dubious distinction of having the world's highest reported rates of campylobacter infection.

"While the number of campylobacter notifications fell to 6693 cases in 2008, that provides no cause for complacency. As a food exporting nation, we must reduce this rate further.

"Over the past 10 to 15 years the incidence of human salmonellosis has also decreased considerably, but the reduction has been more modest in the last five years, dropping from 1401 cases in 2003 to 1274 in 2007. Latest studies suggest poultry meat was responsible for 16.5% of these cases," Dr Choudhary said.

"There has also been a recent surge in listeriosis, with 27 notified cases and three deaths in 2008. More than a third of the cases occurred in people aged over 70. Although the reported incidence of listeriosis is low, it continues to be a high priority for the food industry and NZFSA due to its severity and high mortality rate.

"We need to provide a single New Zealand standard food platform, improved certainty for our food businesses, reduced compliance costs, and better health outcomes for consumers. I look forward to a new Food Bill being introduced."

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