23 Apr 2015

Calls for independent food safety agency

7:53 am on 23 April 2015

The Labour Party is renewing calls for a standalone food safety agency, following the prosecutions of a number of butchers who were using sulphates on raw meat.

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Photo: 123rf

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has prosecuted 15 butchers and three company directors for illegally adding sulphur dioxide and sulphates to mince and steaks.

The chemicals keep the meat from discolouring when it is not fresh and can cause asthma attacks among other serious reactions.

MPI said it did not routinely check for this non-compliance because it did not have the resources.

Labour's primary industries spokesperson Damien O'Connor said that was a government failure and it put the country's exports at risk.

"The fact that MPI has admitted it does not do routine monitoring does expose us to some real risks, particularly if that meat were to get into the export system," he said.

"We're calling for standalone food safety and bio-security agencies. Both of those agencies need to be independent; they need to have the resources and the authority to step in whenever breaches of food safety or bio-security occur."

Mr O'Connor said the businesses that were prosecuted should be named and shamed but MPI said it would not do that as the people who were fined now comply with the Food Safety Act.