SAFETY AND TRUST

Idealog - - EXPORT GUIDE -

WE CAN BE fairly pos­i­tive in New Zealand that what’s printed on the packet is the same as what’s in­side the packet – and what­ever that is won’t kill us or make us sick. But news head­lines to­day of­ten fea­ture food scares (some de­lib­er­ate, some un­in­ten­tional) even in well-reg­u­lated na­tions.

One study, for ex­am­ple, found a third of seafood on US shelves was mis­la­belled, and the coun­try suf­fers E. coli out­breaks ev­ery year in every­thing from Taco Bell to or­ganic spinach. Then there was the 2013 Euro­pean horse meat scan­dal, and a raft of Chi­nese and In­dian scan­dals, in­clud­ing the well-pub­li­cised 2008 melamine-poi­soned in­fant for­mula hor­ror story, which killed six ba­bies and hos­pi­talised 54,000, and the toxic bean-sprouts scare, where the veg­eta­bles were treated with sodium ni­trite, urea, an­tibi­otics and plant hor­mones to make them grow faster and look shinier in the mar­ket stalls.

Otago-based food prove­nance cer­ti­fier, Ori­tain, reck­ons “food fraud” has an im­pact on at least 10% of global food pro­duc­tion, al­though there’s no real way to mea­sure it be­cause most of it goes un­re­ported.

“Food fraud is es­sen­tially any­thing done to a prod­uct for eco­nomic gain, whether that’s di­lu­tion or full sub­sti­tu­tion or a brand rip- off,” says Ori­tain sales and mar­ket­ing man­ager Todd Gor­don. “Honey is a shocker – a lot of honey [on the global mar­ket] con­tains no honey at all. It’s not nec­es­sar­ily harm­ful but it rips peo­ple off; then there’s la­belling caged eggs as free range and things like that.”

It’s not sur­pris­ing then that food safety is top of mind for global food con­sumers. A Min­tel study six months af­ter the horse meat prob­lems found half of Bri­tish shop­pers didn’t trust the food industry to pro­vide safe food, and only 36% thought food man­u­fac­tur­ers knew where their in­gre­di­ents came from.

And re­search by Lin­coln Univer­sity trade and en­vi­ron­ment pro­fes­sor Car­o­line Saun­ders sug­gests food safety of­ten tops the list of what for­eign con­sumers look for when they buy their food.

The US Grain Coun­cil’s 2040 re­port sug­gests foods with demon­stra­ble safety at­tributes will be able to com­mand premium prices – at least in the fu­ture.

“In 2040, ver­i­fi­able in­for­ma­tion about a food prod­uct will de­liver an im­por­tant part of the prod­uct’s value.

“East Asian mar­kets will be­long to sup­pli­ers whose cus­tomers trust them be­cause they can demon­strate the safety, qual­ity, and iden­tity of their food. Trust­wor­thy prod­ucts will com­mand a sub­stan­tial food dif­fer­en­tial.”

The prob­lem for New Zealand is that mostly

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