Cheese changes are too late for some
Proposed changes to compliance regulations and costs have come too late for some small producers.
Food Safety Minister Damien O’Connor announced at the Great Eketahuna Cheese Festival on Monday that cheesemakers are set to benefit from a more common-sense approach to food safety regulation.
But for David Chapman and Kirsty Silvester of Wildbush Cheese in Dannevirke, it is too little, too late, to save their commercial venture.
They operated out of Dannevirke for two years from the beginning of 2015 after having spent about 18 months conforming to the regulatory framework.
Chapman said they tried hard to make things work but compliance and regulations were drawn out and expensive.
The government processes seemed more prohibitive than helpful, he said.
‘‘We had a great time making cheese and running the business, but the amount of work involved to stay in line with standards meant we barely even saw each other on a daily basis. Why are the regulations so complex to begin with?
‘‘There seems to be a general problem of over regulation in New Zealand that strangles small business. The reason we wound it up in November 2017 was because we were coming up for another audit, at a cost of around $3500 and thought, nah, that’s enough.
‘‘It is good to hear that they are going to make things work better for small commercial cheese producers, but we have taken our business in another direction.’’
O’Connor announced the launch of the Food Safety Template for Cheesemakers, to help them better meet food safety requirements.
Producers are required under the Food Act and the Animal Products Act to have a daily plan to manage food safety risks. Over time this has become a major burden for cheesemakers with plans needing to be verified under two laws, he said.
‘‘The Food Safety Template for Cheesemakers, developed for the first time in partnership with artisan cheese makers, pulls together regulations making it easier and cheaper to meet food safety standards.
‘‘Everyone has a role to play in food safety and in the spirit of manaakitanga this Government cares for our food producers as well as those we are feeding.
‘‘We will keep working with our food producers to help them build the tools they need to meet food safety requirements in the most efficient way,’’ O’Connor said.
Cwmglyn Cheese’s Biddy Fraser-Davies said it was wonderful that the hard work she and others had put in to create a dialogue with MPI had paid off.
‘‘Hopefully it means what happened to my friends at Wildbush Cheese won’t happen again. It does seem as if MPI are taking it seriously.’’
‘‘They had eight people out here on Monday and are meeting with someone who spoke at the cheese festival, Dr Paul Neaves, a UKmicrobiologist who is going to give them some insight into how things are managed successfully in the UK.
‘‘So things seem to be taking a positive step forward. We are delighted.’’
Biddy FraserDavies, the owner of Cwmglyn Cheese company near Eketahuna, has welcomed the changes.