Food Safety Law Reform Bill - First reading

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Well, it is a pleasure to have an opportunity to speak on the Food Safety Law Reform Bill, and I want to respond to a couple of the points made from the opposite side of the House a little later on.

This bill is really a great step forward in our food safety management. It is an important area. As any person who has ever been involved in marketing would know, perception is really important to the value of a product, and we are very much an exporting nation and we really live and die on our market perception.

The bill, actually, makes changes to the Animal Products Act 1999, the Food Act 2014, and the Wine Act 2003 in order to improve their effectiveness. As has been mentioned, it addresses recommendations from the whey protein concentrate (WPC) contamination inquiry.

But I do not agree with the assertion made by the Opposition that it had incredibly damaged our reputation. In fact, I take the opposite view. I think that the inquiry, our openness in this situation, and our really quick handling of this issue by coming forward with this particular bill enhances our reputation because it shows that we will actually deal with these things as they come along.

I actually had the opportunity to speak at two conferences in China on food safety and spoke to regulators and companies in the market that are importing New Zealand milk products into the Chinese market. I know they were concerned about the WPC incident, but they were also very, very pleased that we were stepping up, we were honest about, we were not trying to sweep it under the carpet, and that we got ahead of the whole issue and recalled the products and did not allow them to get into the market, even though it turned out to be a false alarm.

I think that those sorts of things are really important. And if we look at the key features in the bill, traceability and recall regulations are a big part of that. So having something when you have got an issue—whether it turns out to be an issue in the long run or not, it is not as important as being able to identify those products, and that is very clearly laid out in this bill and then being able to bring them back from the market gives all those players in the market a great deal of comfort.

I also want to touch on the other assertion made that the Opposition is not happy and it wants a duplication, in effect, of powers. It wants to have a regulated body that sits out on its own to put out the regulations and then another body to sit in judgment on them, because the Opposition is not comfortable with it. But that is an unnecessary and expensive duplication, which really will not achieve anything other than bloating bureaucracy.

Really, that is not what this is all about; we are wanting to get a good result here for New Zealand and for our food safety reputation. I am very comfortable with the way that is being handled at the moment.

The risk-based plans and programmes are really important, and I know with my experience in the wine industry with our wine standards management plan that all wineries had to complete—it is a really important document. Those plans will be very robust and lay out very clearly how things are handled, and I think that is vital as well.

Stronger verification is a part of the bill as well, so I am looking forward to seeing it in front of the select committee and hearing from those submitters who have their take on how this will work. We will, I am sure, iron out any issues, which I am sure there will be very few in number. It is with great pleasure that I commend the bill to the House.