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Country of Origin Labelling Factsheet

Sue Kedgley MP
Sue Kedgley MP
Tag: Food

  • We import about 1.5 million tonnes of food every year from many different countries — including fresh foods such as fish, meat, fruit and vegetables. For example we import lettuces from Korea, pears and pork from China, oranges and ginger from Thailand.

  • In 2006 we imported 149,462 tonnes of fruit, 32,207 tonnes of meat, 39,996 tonnes of vegetables and 10,604 tonnes of lamb and beef. None of it has to be labelled for country of origin, which means that the consumer often cannot tell where the food they are eating comes from. Much of it is fumigated with methyl bromide, a highly toxic and ozone depleting gas.

  • 96% of the shrimps and prawns on sale in New Zealand are imported, much of it is sold unlabelled as to its country of origin. Shrimps and prawns imported from countries like China have been found to contain carcinogenic antimicrobials nitrofuran, malachite green, and gentian violet. As a result of these concerns, countries like the United States and Australia have halted some shipments of raw prawns into their countries. 25% of our imported shrimps and prawns come from China - 937 tonnes in 2006 - and very little of it was tested for residues.

  • 40% of pork on sale in New Zealand is imported. About 30% (7,726 tonnes in 2006) comes from Canada; some pig herds in Canada are contaminated with the superbug bacteria MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus). Pigs in Australia are fed a growth hormone that is not permitted here - last year we imported 10,232 tonnes of pig meat from Australia. Pigs in China have been fed the asthma medication clenbuterol to make them leaner - last year we imported 104 tonnes of preserved pig meat, such as ham, from China.

  • Cheap food imports are wiping out our local growers: last year we imported 1,839 tonnes of cheap garlic from China. This has helped to decimate New Zealand's once thriving garlic growing industry. Roxdale sun-ripened apricots have succumbed to cheaper cans of green-picked, acid-treated fruit from South Africa and Spain.

  • Australian tomatoes are dipped in the toxic insecticide dimethoate but New Zealand tomatoes aren't. Dimethoate cannot be removed by washing and has been linked to disruption of reproductive function, chromosomal aberrations, immune system damage, disruption of the endocrine system and the nervous system.

  • In April 2007 the United States rejected 137 shipments of food from China because it was "filthy", contained the food poisoning bacteria salmonella, or banned chemicals - but our government does not carry out regular random testing of imported food from China, let alone turn ships away at the border.

Why we need mandatory Country of Origin labelling

  • so we can identify which country our food comes from;

  • so we can support our own New Zealand producers;

  • so we can avoid buying food from countries with a poor food safety record

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