Wellington, Sept 9 NZPA - The Government's new Food Bill discriminates against vegetarians, vegans and religious communities with dietary restrictions, such as Hindus, Muslims and Jews, MPs were told today.
"The Food Bill is unintentionally discriminating against these groups of people," members of the primary production select committee were told by Scott Inglis, of Wellington.
Some vegetarians wanted to avoid all animal products, and some religious communities wanted to avoid ingredients from specific animals, such as pigs or cows, but there was no provision for food labels to show the source of "ambiguous" products.
Gelatine could be made from boiled-down animals or seaweed, but often the only way to find out which had been used was to contact the manufacturer.
"Watties tomato sauce lists 'natural flavour' as an ingredient," Mr Inglis said. "I called up to find out what it was, and they told me it was onion. Why didn't they just write 'onion' on the packaging?"
The new food law provided for food that was "offensive" to be classified as unsuitable for sale, and Mr Inglis said that for many potential consumers, animal-based ingredients were offensive.
"There is nowhere in the Bill that 'offensive' is classified, but to a vegetarian an animal product would be offensive".
"I ask the committee to amend the Bill so that all slaughter by-products in food are indicated on the packet," he said. These by-products could include gelatine, rennet, isinglass and animal fat.
And other examples causing confusion included "milksolids" because vegetarians could eat full cream milkpowder, but if it included whey powder, there was a risk that it included rennet made from calves. Glycerine or stearic acid could also come from a vegetable or animal source.
Ideally, the Bill should be changed so that all packaging would be required to state either "Suitable for Vegetarians/Vegans" or "Unsuitable for Vegetarians/Vegans".
This was reasonable because people with allergies were catered for with warnings on food packaging about things such as peanuts.
But an advisor told the committee the Food Bill would not be able to over-ride trans-Tasman standards set in Canberra by Food Standards Australia New Zealand, which oversees labelling rules.
Committee chairman Shane Ardern said the issue would be "teased out" in consideration of the bill.
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