Thursday, December 7, 2023

NZ Pork welcomes labelling call

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Country of origin should be made clearer, committee rules.
A NZ Pork petition calling for imported pork to meet the same welfare standards as locally produced meat was recently declined by the Primary Production Committee. 
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Parliament’s regulations committee has nudged the government to tweak a certain regulation to avoid labelling practices that may confuse consumers about where their food comes from.

The recommendation, by the Regulations Review Select Committee chaired by National’s Judith Collins, comes after a complaint from New Zealand Pork (NZ Pork), which believes consumers aren’t being given the right information about what country the meat comes from in processed pork products such as bacon, ham and salami.

It comes just two weeks after the Primary Production committee rejected an NZ Pork petition about animal welfare requirements for imported pork, saying it would be contrary to NZ’s international obligations.

The petition, started by NZ Pork’s policy adviser Frances Clement, urged the government to apply the same animal welfare standards to imported pork as required of NZ pork producers.

Currently, almost two-thirds of pork consumed in NZ is imported from other countries that are, according to NZ Pork, using practices that are illegal in NZ.

In its complaint to the Regulations committee, NZ Pork said it believed the regulations did not uphold the purpose of providing information to consumers.

The industry made complaints against four specific regulations in the Consumer Information Standards (Origin of Food) Regulations 2021.

Under regulation 8, which defines “cured pork” as bacon or ham and which contains pork flesh that is at least 30% of the product’s weight, NZ Pork said it does not include enough types of pork.

That meant various processed meat products are not required to state the origin of the meat content requirements, it said, wanting salami, sausages, meatballs and marinated meats included.

Under regulation 10, NZ Pork said it allows manufacturers to advertise a product as “made in New Zealand” while also putting in fine print that it was made from overseas meats.

It also raised issue with regulations 14 and 15, which it alleged allow manufacturers to provide lists of potential countries of origin on labels, rather than specifying one country of origin.

In the committee’s final report released on Wednesday, it rejected NZ Pork’s complaint about regulations 8, 14 and 15.

However, its complaint about regulation 10 should be upheld, it said, as it is “overly flexible and is insufficient for providing consumers with accurate information about country of origin”.

“Using fine print on the back of packaging to list the origin of the meat in bacon or ham, while labelling the bacon prominently on the front as ‘made in New Zealand’, could be materially confusing or misleading to consumers,” it said.

It recommended the government consider amending it to prevent “potential” misrepresentation.

NZ Pork’s chief executive, Brent Kleiss, said the recommendation is “really pleasing”.

It is now the responsibility of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Duncan Webb to push through the change and it will be working with him to make it happen.

While it is about giving consumers clear information, Kleiss said, it is also about giving NZ-grown pork a fair go.

The industry body has heard from consumers who were frustrated they couldn’t find what was true NZ pork, he said.

In a statement, Webb acknowledged the report and agreed that consumers are entitled to accurate information about the products they buy.

“I value its independent advice and as recommended I will consider whether regulatory change is needed.”

Webb said he’d met with NZ Pork’s board to discuss its concerns.

“It is important that consumers are not misled about the origin of the food that they buy, and I will continue to engage with all members of the pork industry to ensure accurate labelling.”

The government’s response to the report is due in late September.

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