Food Country of Origin Bill passes final reading

This has taken a while, starting well before the current government took over, but the Greens deserve praise for the passing of the Consumers’ Right to Know (Country of Origin of Food) Bill. The Members’ Bill was introduced to Parliament on 8 December 2016 so has taken two years to get through.

I think that labelling should clearly show the country of origin of food so consumers can make informed choices.

I detest labels that say things like ‘packed in New Zealand’ or ‘some contents may come from overseas’.

An actual label (I just checked): ‘Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients’ (tomato sauce).

But most good in my pantry do now name the country of origin, perhaps in anticipation of the law change.

Food retailers should be open and honest about their products. It’s a shame it has taken a law to force it.

National u-turns

National seem to working through a few u-turns as election year progresses.

Bringing soldiers’ remains back to New Zealand was announced on Monday:  Military personnel remains to be brought home

The families of New Zealand military personnel, and their dependants, buried overseas between 1955 and 1971 in Singapore and Malaysia will be offered the opportunity to repatriate their loved ones.

Veterans’ Affairs Minister David Bennett says this decision comes as a result of recommendations by the Veterans’ Advisory Board and the advocacy of the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association and families affected, and has thanked them for their important contributions.

“Following the efforts by families to have their loved ones brought home, the Government last year asked the Veterans’ Advisory Board to look into New Zealand’s repatriation policy. The Board identified a number of inconsistencies, and the Government has listened.

“New Zealand had an inconsistent policy of repatriation between 1955 and 1971. Families could opt to meet repatriation costs themselves, but not all could afford to do so. Other civil servants were also repatriated. We want to restore fairness for those families affected.”

Mr Bennett says the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) will also look at extending the offer to the families of New Zealanders interred as a result of a military burial between 1955 and 1971 in American Samoa, Australia, Fiji, Korea, and the United Kingdom, and all countries involved have been contacted.

The NZDF will oversee the repatriation process, including consultation with the families, and the planning and subsequent return of any bodies.

“The decision on whether or not to bring the bodies home will be the families’ to make,” Mr Bennett says.

“If they choose not to repatriate, the graves will continue to be cared for under current agreements. We will support the families through this process.”

And today Government u-turn on country of origin labelling

The National Party will support a Green MPs bill requiring country of origin labelling on single ingredient food such as fruit and meat in a u-turn Prime Minister Bill English said was due to consumer preferences.

Steffan Browning’s Consumers’ Right to Know (Country of Origin of Food) Bill will have its first reading in Parliament soon and is set to go to select committee after National agreed to support it.

It will require mandatory country of origin labelling for fresh single ingredient foods such as meat, fruit, vegetables and nuts as well as oils and flour.

That was a shift from National’s original decision to oppose it. English said there had been “quite a bit of discussion” in National’s caucus about it.

“It’s just reflecting pretty strong consumer preferences.”

And it probably reflects the desire of national to get back into Government.

English said National would decide after the select committee process whether to continue to support it into law. About 80 per cent of single ingredient foods were already labelled with the country of origin. “It is about whether it is feasible or desirable to require the rest of them to label.”

He said the initial decision to oppose it was because National was always sceptical about new regulation, especially if it felt most people’s needs were being met by the current regulation. There was also some concern about whether it would impact on trade agreements.

Browning said it was “fantastic news” for consumers if it went ahead and could help boost sales of New Zealand produce and meat.

I think that we should be accurately informed about country of origin of foods available for purchase.