Berry scandal splits Abbott, Joyce

19 Feb, 2015 06:34 AM
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Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.
Mr Abbott resists any change because it would create red tape and drive up supermarket prices
Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce.

THE frozen berry health scare has exposed a rift between Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce and Prime Minister Tony Abbott over food labelling rules.

Mr Joyce has called for tighter food labelling laws after confirmation of cases of Hepatitis A linked to berries packaged in China.

But Mr Abbott resists any change because it would create red tape and drive up supermarket prices. "The bottom line is that companies shouldn't be poisoning their customers," he told ABC Radio.

Victorian distributor Patties Foods has recalled one kilogram packets of Nanna's frozen berries and 300-gram and 500g packs of Creative Gourmet mixed berries.

Health authorities have confirmed Hepatitis A cases in four States and they expect that number to rise. Contamination has been linked to poor hygiene and water supplies in a Chinese packaging plant.

Farmers' groups want stricter requirements for imported products to be clearly labelled with their country of origin. Labels like "Made in Australia from local and imported products" are a long-running point of contention.

Mr Joyce said health ministers were considering an import review and an increase in the level of food screening.

He said labels should clearly identify "unambiguously, as soon as you pick up a package, whether it is from our country with our strong ... sanitary requirements".

"That is making sure that faecal contamination, which is a very polite word for poo, is not anywhere near your food (and) not going to be put in your mouth," Mr Joyce told the Nine Network on Wednesday. In the meantime, the best way to stay safe was to eat Australian-made products, he added.

But Mr Abbott does not support changes to food labelling laws.

"It's always got to be a question of getting the balance right because every time we demand more regulation, every time we demand different types of labelling, we add to the costs and the consumer has to pay," he said.

Legislation requiring clearer labelling, including removing the all-encompassing "made in" label, is already before the federal parliament.

Greens Leader Christine Milne last week introduced a bill that would require products to state where they are grown, manufactured and packaged. A "product of" or "grown in" label would be used to describe food wholly grown and processed in a country.

Labels carrying the words 'manufactured in' would be required for products that had been substantially transformed in a particular country.

"Packaged in" would be used for products that have been highly processed in, or include ingredients from, many countries.

"Everyone from farmers to consumer groups and even the Coalition's Minister for Agriculture have been calling for this, so it's time to put words into action," Senator Milne said.

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READER COMMENTS

X
19/02/2015 9:59:23 AM

Every food product imported into Australia should have demonstrated integrity in relation to food safety.Forgoing safety for cheap prices and risking consumer health is inexcusable . Wake up Government
Janet
19/02/2015 10:04:09 AM

Great mr abbot,let's keep food cheap by not letting the consumer know where their food comes from,why do the majority of politicians hate slow moving targets(farmers)?
Jock Munro
19/02/2015 10:26:44 AM

No surprises here-Barnaby is on the side of Australian producers and the betterment of Australia. Abbott is part of the urban political elite that wouldn't have a clue and rely on text book theory
Invey
19/02/2015 10:43:29 AM

Thanks Barnaby for bringing this up. I don't purchase anything that says "Made with local and imported" . Tony, who are you working for - Australians or foreign countries? Who cares if it costs one cent more to have a correct label on a product. It may actually result in more Australian product being consumed. Maybe Tony doesn't want Australians to eat our own food? From his comments and reluctance to improve labels you would think he is totally against Australian grown food. Tony is un-Australian and shouldn't be PM.
pepper
19/02/2015 11:08:08 AM

It's so fundamental.... safer food and jobs for our grandkids. How much cost is there in labelling 'Australian produced and processed, Batch No #### ' anything else is not! Of what use to any ones understanding is: ' may contain ingredients made from imported and local product' Most people I have spoken to about product labelling indicate that they want to know and make their own choice on whether to pay the Australian value. e.g. I am sure most people would prefer a sweet juicy spotted orange over an unknown sourced pretty looking orange that has been significantly treated to allow import.
Matt12
19/02/2015 4:41:21 PM

You get the feeling that the powers that be don't want us consuming our own grown food, they are more interested in letting in untested cheap produce, how about some better labelling laws, can't cost that much.
BB
21/02/2015 5:52:16 PM

So Mr Abbott, If you think there is going to be a cost to have better labelling, Do you also now recognise that having weak labelling has come at a cost also.

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COMMENTS

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Just another question for Jo, if we are a civilised nation (I know you think we probably
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I wonder if the AJP could extrapolate on the concept of a tax on livestock production to inform
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Agriculture is more than farming animals, being supportive of plant based agriculture shows