Food Safety Rules Can Help

Last week Over the Fence focused on the potential burdensome compliance costs on smaller suppliers and vendors under the new Food Act 2014.

It takes years to build up a good business reputation, as can be seen by the reputational damage that Fonterra has faced.  In 2008, the infant formula contamination in China resulted in 6 infant deaths and 54,000 babies being hospitalised and the recall of Fonterra products in 2013 due to the Fonterra’s milk products being suspected of botulism-causing bacteria, resulted in further fall out for the organisation. 

More recently, a story broke from China where Fonterra’s expired milk powder was repackaged and resold to consumers. 

Without food safety regulation, the public would not have the comfort of knowing that the food that they are buying is safe and suitable to eat.  Consumers could be vulnerable to any number of diseases.  It is important for food safety to be monitored at all levels, including smaller businesses and even stall holders at Farmers’ Markets.  If no constraints are in place, vendors selling goods at less than hygienic conditions could create a major health risk, such as has been experienced with water contamination in Havelock North.

All new legislation takes time to “bed in”. The law has been updated to take into account the changing way in which food can be bought and sold, including at markets and fairs.  There are also exemptions for fundraising and producers selling their self-grown produce.  Existing food suppliers have a three-year period of transition so this allows time for food vendors to comply with this legislation and to put appropriate food safety checks in place.

It is recognised that there may be some uncertainty around interpreting and implementing the Act.  However, now that this law is in place, the Act will provide a level of protection for producers for those who have been audited and approval been given to them to sell their goods.   

While initial costs of registering and complying with the Act’s National Programme tiers may seem high, it will prevent black market racketeers infiltrating the market and damaging the reputation of other law-abiding food businesses.

After going through the stringent vetting processes, all food suppliers will have a certification from their Local Council – an endorsement and seal of approval.  This will be an enhancement on their products and could be a strong marketing tool, such as the Heart Foundation’s “heart tick” label that was given to consumable food.

This new legislation need not be too onerous and will be of benefit to all.  Both food suppliers and their consumers will be protected from wide-spread contamination of food bacteria.  In addition, those who apply for and receive approval from their Local Council, will have their good reputations enhanced.

The content of this document is necessarily general and readers should seek specific advice on particular matters and not rely solely on this document. 

If you would like more information on any of the topics in this document, please contact your usual Auld Brewer Mazengarb & McEwen adviser. 

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Diana Koorts