17 Dec 2012

Sending food to US faster and cheaper soon

6:28 am on 17 December 2012

New Zealand exporters should soon have a faster, cheaper and smoother process for sending food to the United States.

New Zealand and the United States have signed a joint Food Safety Systems Recognition Arrangement.

The arrangement should mean food importers and exporters in both countries having to jump through fewer regulatory hoops.

It is the first time the United States has signed such a deal with another country.

The Ministry for Primary Industries said the deal recognises that both countries food safety systems are comparable and it seeks to remove unnecessary duplication.

Deputy director of general standards Carol Barnao said the arrangement signifies a high level of food safety trust, so there will also be fewer inspections needed at both ends.

Ms Barnao said a comprehensive review of laws and regulations took well over a year.

"We looked at the individual inspection programmes, we looked at the way that we respond to food related illness and outbreaks, we looked at each other's compliance and enforcement systems and we also looked at how good each of the different lab systems are to give us a total package," she said.

In 2010, New Zealand accounted for 2% of total US food imports.

But that 2% represents $1.5 billion worth of exports for New Zealand.