Tomatoes New Zealand today called on the Government to ensure irradiated Australian tomatoes and capsicums supplied to New Zealand retailers are clearly labelled.
Tomatoes New Zealand, the body representing over 150 commercial fresh tomato growers, is urging Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye to ensure that labelling of loose irradiated produce is carried out.
From June this year, irradiated Australian tomatoes and capsicums could be available in New Zealand retail outlets, cafes and restaurants. The Minister for Food Safety is due to make her decision on the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) proposal in May.
Alasdair MacLeod, chair of Tomatoes New Zealand, said: "We are demanding compulsory labelling on all irradiated produce, loose or otherwise, be clear and enforced, so that Kiwi consumers can make an informed decision between Australian irradiated tomatoes and New Zealand tomatoes which are never irradiated.
"Consumers have the right to know where their produce comes from and how it has been treated."
"Unlike Australia, New Zealand does not have compulsory labelling of fresh produce - so under the current regime, unless retailers take it upon themselves to clearly label irradiated Australian tomatoes and capsicums, consumers won’t know.
"For example; your local retailer may provide a sign informing you that some of the loose tomatoes in the crate have been irradiated. But how will you identify the Australian irradiated loose tomatoes from the New Zealand loose tomatoes? The point is you won’t and that is what we want to avoid."
The Queensland Government has applied to FSANZ to export irradiated tomatoes and capsicums to New Zealand. FSANZ has approved the application in principle and the final decision now sits with New Zealand’s Minister for Food Safety to decide how to proceed.
The Australian state of Queensland irradiates fresh produce before it is exported to prevent any bacteria or pests such as the Queensland Fruit Fly from leaving Australia's shores. Irradiation applies gamma rays to fresh produce coming into New Zealand.
"Irradiation is a vital tool to protect New Zealand’s vulnerable horticulture industry from fruit fly and we support its use on at-risk produce from Australia," said Mr MacLeod.
"However we do want consumers to have information at point of sale so they can make the decision to eat irradiated tomatoes for themselves.
"This is a great example of why we support the mandatory country of origin labelling being introduced into New Zealand; we label shoes and clothing with their country of origin. Why wouldn’t we label food?"