Min­is­ter enters food stall bun fight

The Dominion Post - - News - JOEL MAXWELL

A po­ten­tial food-stall ex­tinc­tion at coun­try mar­kets has seen Food Safety Min­is­ter Damien O’Con­nor step in to the bun fight.

It comes af­ter small­time stall­hold­ers on the Ka¯piti Coast north of Welling­ton got a taste of new na­tional food safety rules that could kill their busi­ness.

Changes to the 2014 Food Act will kick in for all food stall op­er­a­tors in March - and coun­cil in­for­ma­tional vis­its to mar­kets on the coast north of Welling­ton left stall­hold­ers stunned.

Some dis­cov­ered they could face costs for food safety reg­u­la­tion that would en­tirely soak up their profit.

Whether they face the fees could hang on where their chamomile or cu­cum­bers came from.

A herbal tea seller, who did not wish to be named, said she was ap­proached by staff at mar­kets and dis­cov­ered her store-bought ginger might force her to pay a li­cence and food safety check bill.

Stalls that sold only pro­duce they grew them­selves could be ex­empt from the changes.

Bake stall­holder Sharon Hurst said she dis­cov­ered, as a non­fundrais­ing stall­holder, she would likely pay $900 in the first year to Ka¯ piti Coast District Coun­cil for li­cens­ing and food safety ver­i­fi­ca­tion, and $750 an­nu­ally af­ter that.

It would stop her bak­ing stall ‘‘dead’’, she said, and she slammed the charges as ‘‘rev­enue gath­er­ing’’.

"Of­fi­cials at MPI are com­ing up with some ideas as to how we can ... es­tab­lish [a regime] that is more fo­cused and more suited for lower vol­ume food pro­duc­ers."

Food Safety Min­is­ter Damien O'Con­nor

This week she at­tended a coun­cil in­for­ma­tion ses­sion and dis­cov­ered she would have a high bar to gain food safety ver­i­fi­ca­tion.

‘‘My doc­u­ment, for my 25 hours of sell­ing cakes a year, is the same as a su­per­mar­ket,’’ she said.

It in­cluded ‘‘ridicu­lous’’ re­quire­ments like hav­ing to mea­sure and record the tem­per­a­ture of all her chilled goods.

‘‘So when I go to Count­down to get my butter do I have to mea­sure the tem­per­a­ture of my two pack­ets per month?’’

Hurst said she hoped O’Con­nor would bring fresh eyes to the prob­lem and put a brake on the changes. ‘‘It’s go­ing too far, it re­ally is.’’

O’Con­nor said he had dis­cussed the is­sue with Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries staff about en­sur­ing ‘‘a lower cost regime’’ for stall­hold­ers.

‘‘Of­fi­cials at MPI are com­ing up with some ideas as to how we can, if not run a dif­fer­ent regime, cer­tainly es­tab­lish one that is more fo­cused and more suited for lower vol­ume food pro­duc­ers.’’

Rather than chang­ing the law, O’Con­nor said he hoped there was enough flex­i­bil­ity within the Act to re­duce costs.

‘‘I hope that we’ll be able to give clear in­di­ca­tion to those stall­hold­ers within a month that there will be change, and hope­fully there will be pos­i­tive change.’’

Pre­vi­ously the coun­cil de­fended its ap­proach, say­ing it was obliged to en­force gov­ern­ment rules, and the ver­i­fi­ca­tion charge up to $600 was fair and sim­i­lar to those across the re­gion.

Yes­ter­day, Ka¯piti mayor K Gu­runathan said it was very use­ful for the min­is­ter to have stepped in.

‘‘I find it re­ally re­fresh­ing that the min­is­ter has taken a per­sonal in­ter­est in this area, rather than just leav­ing it to the bu­reau­crats, no mat­ter how well-mean­ing they are.’’

He said the mar­kets were a good test­ing ground for start­ing busi­nesses, and mi­grant com­mu­ni­ties of­ten started to in­ter­act with the main­stream com­mu­nity through the mar­kets.

MPI di­rec­tor Peter Thomson has pre­vi­ously said that law aimed at a con­sis­tent sys­tem for food safety, and that the re­quire­ment that food ‘‘does not make peo­ple sick, and be what it says it is’’ cov­ered all food for sale.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.