Do you want food safety with that?

February 3, 2009

Australian fishermen get $15 a kilo for prawns landed on the beach and it costs locals $12 a kilo to get farmed prawn to the weight required for sale; but Chinese farmed prawns land in Australia for $3 a kilo.

With that price difference I can see the attraction of the imports and that’s not the only food that comes from China.

The Land  reports that Chinese food is flooding into Australia:

It includes nearly 250 tonnes of fresh or chilled garlic, 67t of broccoli, 400kg of flour, more than 38t of preserved tomatoes, 1085t of various types of peanuts and 160,000 litres of apple juice – all sent here in the second half of last year.

Who knows how much Chinese food comes into New Zealand too but more to the point how safe is it?

We are in no position to complain about the quantity when we send mega tonnes of meat, dairy products and fruit to other countries, but we have a right to question the quality and safety. Food produced here and in Australia has to meet strict standards, but regardless of what’s required in China the poisoned milk scandal is proof we need to be very wary of their produce. 

 China is a huge market, we can’t afford to ignore them and if we want to sell to them we have to buy from them in return. Australians face a similar situation and Michael Thomson, editor of The Land’s FarmOnLine says they have to Trade with China but do it right.

That’s easier said than done and Bernard Hickey warns of the dangers of trying to do business in China

 However, food standards and unscruprulous business practices are not just a problem in the developing world. Frenemy  found an article from the Huffington Post:

You’d think the Peanut Corporation of America was headquartered in China. They discovered salmonella twelve times over the past two years at a Georgia plant, yet they chose to ship out contaminated peanut butter regardless. Sounds a lot like the Chinese dairy company Sanlu that knowingly sold melamine-laced milk powder. In both cases, kids died. In both cases, the regulators were none the wiser. 

It would be impossible to police every food producer and processor, but there is a case for requiring the reporting of any health issues with strong penalties for those who don’t.

The EU imposes very strict requirements on the killing and processing of meat we send there, so much so that there’s a suspicion they’re using food standards as a non-tariff barriers. We can’t test every item of food which comes into the country but the increasing amount of imports from places which don’t have our strict standards does raise the question of whether we’re doing enough.

Cheap food isn’t good food if it comes at the cost of our health.

This isn’t an argument for compulsory country of origin labelling, but retailers ought to take note of customer concerns and realise the marketing advantage in highlighting food from sources which we ought to be confident have high saftey standards.

In the meantime, the thought of Chinese broccoli is the prompt I need to grow my own.


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