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Food bill passes first reading

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Kate Wilkinson
Kate Wilkinson

Wellington, July 22 NZPA - A bill that will replace the 30-year-old Food Act was given its first reading in Parliament today.

The 342-page Food Bill has taken three years to draft and Food Safety Minister Kate Wilkinson says it is a big improvement on existing law.

It covers all the food sectors and will be closely scrutinised by the primary production select committee, which will hear public submissions.

"Ultimately this bill will make it easier for food businesses to understand how safe food needs to be produced and ensure they take primary responsibility for everything they sell," Ms Wilkinson said.

"I'm confident that when the Food Bill emerges from the scrutiny of the select committee we will be able to implement a regulatory system that offers greater clarity to businesses and more confidence to consumers."

Labour supports the bill and its food safety spokesman, Ashraf Choudhary, said it would remove areas of confusion for food handlers because obligations would be spelled out.

Mr Choudhary said Labour wanted the bill to be carefully examined by the select committee.

"We are not convinced that National is going to keep compliance costs to a minimum," he said.

"The last thing we want is for the bill to create an environment that is overly bureaucratic and expensive for food businesses and consumers."

Some MPs were worried that the bill's food safety and food handling provisions could have an impact on fund-raising events like barbecues and sausage sizzles.

Ms Wilkinson said they shouldn't be concerned.

"Fund-raising activities like cake stalls and sausage sizzles won't need to jump through hoops," she said.

Green Party MP Sue Kedgley said she was going to ask many questions during the select committee process.

"As far as I can deduce, it is shifting responsibility for food safety from the government to producers, who will have to manage all the risks," she said.

"But it is perfectly legal to import food from countries which don't have any food safety regulations at all."

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