1 Nov 2011

Conference told NZ country-of-origin labelling working well

3:29 pm on 1 November 2011

A British food scientist says there's no need to make New Zealand's country-of-origin food labelling system mandatory as the voluntary system appears to be working well in promoting this country's produce.

Dr Mark Woolfe, who worked for the UK's Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for 26 years, told a traceability symposium in Wellington that he has been staggered by the strong promotion of local products in New Zealand supermarkets.

The Green Party and fruit and vegetable grower representative Horticulture New Zealand have refreshed their calls for mandatory country-of-origin labelling, or COOL as its known in the trade, on fresh food.

They say most of New Zealand's trading partners have it and it applies to most of our other imports.

They also say it would help in the promotion of locally grown produce.

However, Dr Woolfe says the voluntary system appears to be working well in promoting local production and his suggestion is "leave it alone".

"It is only when there is unfair competition that politicians then turn to legislation as a way of trying to avoid that," he says.

Dr Woolfe concedes says COOL is increasing across the world and if New Zealand does decide to adopt it in the future, the system should be based on the one used in Australia rather than the example of the European Union.

He says the European Union legislation is very prescriptive and, he believes, gives information that "confuses the consumer rather than makes it clear".