New Zealand government ministers responsible for food safety had a special message for Chinese consumers Wednesday: you can trust New Zealand food.
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye stressed in an interview with Xinhua that they would do everything possible to ensure no repeats of the sort of scare that saw a global recall of dairy products thought to be contaminated with a botulism-causing bacterium.
Speaking on the release of the report on the first stage of the Government Inquiry into the Whey Protein Concentrate Contamination Incident, Guy said the government accepted in principle all 29 recommendations.
"This is a very good report. It's been done by three independents -- two from New Zealand one from Australia -- it's been peer-reviewed by an Irish food safety expert. The four of them all confirm that our food safety regulatory system is strong robust and world leading," Guy said when asked what message it would send to Chinese consumers.
"This report confirms to Chinese consumers that New Zealand food safety products are safe. This report looks out into the horizon and says that we should further strengthen some of our capacity and research and investment in scientific expertise," he said.
The government would also be stepping up its presence in China, he said.
"There's going to be four more scientifically skilled people that will be in China working with Chinese officials and we're also looking at our footprint around the world in other key markets as well."
Kaye said the report showed the government was taking its food safety systems to a completely new level and was committed to its strong relationship with China.
"I think at a communication level and a traceability level we can do better and we are very committed to doing that because our relationship with China and with Chinese mums and dads is very important to us," said Kaye.
"We want them to know that no only do we have some of the safest food in the world, but also that we're very committed to ensuring that we have good communication and even better."
Other areas that could be strengthened, such as food safety science and research, could include scholarships between China and New Zealand, she said.
"The other area we'll be looking to strengthen is around tracing policy so there will be a working group that will be working with industry, government and overseas regulators to make sure that if an incident occurs we're able to trace product quickly."
The government announced Wednesday it would allocate between 8 million and 12 million NZ dollars (6.63 million and 9.94 million U. S. dollars) a year on the key recommendations in the report:
-- Strengthening capability in emerging export markets, particularly China, with additional personnel
-- Establishing a center of food safety science and research, bringing together New Zealand government agencies and research organizations
-- Increasing dairy processing and regulatory capability
-- Establishing a food safety and assurance advisory council to provide independent advice and risk analysis
-- Fast-tracking work to consolidate and simplify legislation and regulations.
The government set up the inquiry to the causes and handling of a global food recall after a batch of whey protein concentrate made by dairy giant Fonterra was wrongly identified as being tainted by a bacterium that cause botulism. Another part of the inquiry is to look at the question of what happened and the regulator's response.