Pork industry calls for Government to prioritise country of origin labelling

The New Zealand Pork Board estimates the industry is worth $750 million each year.
The New Zealand Pork Board estimates the industry is worth $750 million each year. Photo credit: Getty

The Government is facing pressure to make country of origin labelling a priority.

Laws designed to give people clarity on where their food comes from were passed in 2018. However, earlier this year the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment said there would be a 12-month delay in the new rules coming into effect due to COVID-19 hold-ups.

The rules are now set to be finalised by June 2021 and come into effect in December 2021.

But there are calls in the pork industry to bring in the rules earlier, in a bid to reduce risk from foreign products.

Angus Black, of Harrington's Smallgoods in Wellington, says with African Swine Fever affecting many pigs around the world, it's more important than ever for Kiwi consumers to know where their pork comes from. 

"Overseas, African Swine Fever continues its inexorable spread globally, as a pig-specific pandemic, and is causing greater concern within the market," Black said.

He also said labelling would make it easier for Kiwis to support local businesses.

"Our local farmers are also contending with the impacts of the COVID-19 restrictions and were hit particularly hard when the hospitality sector was closed, and butchers were unable to trade.

"Bringing forward the labelling recommendations will enable consumers to identify and buy local pork easily; supporting the New Zealand industry, increasing demand for local pork, and reducing the risks which come with importing pork from countries dealing with African Swine Fever."

Angus Black.
Angus Black. Photo credit: Supplied

Black said Harrington's Smallgoods had submitted and provided feedback on the Consumer's Right to Know (Country of Origin of Food) Act at each stage and had also written to the new Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs David Clark asking him to make the new regulations a priority.

"We also ask that in considering the final recommendations, sausages are included, and the regulations more clearly prescribe the rules around the size and placement of the country of origin labels," Black said.

The Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs told Newshub officials were "working to finalise the regulations" after the disruption caused by COVID-19 

"As a Government we recognise that knowing where a food comes from benefits both consumers and business," Clark said.

David Baines, chief executive of NZ Pork, said he was "disappointed" at the Government's decision to delay bringing in the rules.

He said he also had concerns regulations for cured pork, as currently proposed, "will mean that imported pig meat could be marinated or injected in New Zealand and then appear in supermarket chillers alongside New Zealand pork with no recognition it is produced overseas".

"We urge the Government to widen the definition of cured pork within the regulations, so it includes preserving and/or flavouring. Defining cured pork in this way would mean the regulations would cover imported pork that is processed in some form," Baines told Newshub.

"Consumers rightly want accurate information about the origin of certain foods so they can make informed purchase decisions. They expect clear and unambiguous information about the origin of cured or further processed pork."

Baines said around 60 percent of the country's pork consumption is imported, with 85 percent of imported pork further processed.

Much of the pork coming into New Zealand was produced by countries that use farming practices that don't meet New Zealand's animal welfare or environmental standards, Baines said.

"Much comes from countries affected by serious pig diseases, such as Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) which is not present in New Zealand. Some even comes from countries where African Swine Fever (ASF) is present, although being managed."

The New Zealand Pork Board estimates the industry is worth $750 million each year here.