HUNTER VALLEY NEWS COLUMN 4 MARCH 2015

The berries contamination scare took a large slice of the news cycle last week and received its fair share of attention in the House of Representatives.

You can bet a dollar that most people are now checking food labels more intensely than was the case – I sure am.

But as politicians we need to make sure the labels are easy to understand and accurate.  Surely that’s something we can find a bi-partisan position on.  Beyond that, a community information campaign is needed to ensure consumers appreciate the fact that cheaper imported foods may not be of the same standard in health terms as Australian produce.

We can’t stop imports, imagine if our trading partners blocked ours.  We would be the losers – we export two-thirds of everything we produce.  But we can get tougher on standards and be more diligent in our screening.  The consumer is rightfully demanding nothing less.

The other thing we need to do as a nation is to ensure our own reputation for clean, green, safe, and high quality produce is retained.  At the moment it’s only that, a reputation and one founded on results.  But what if we have a problem with one of our exported products?  What system do we have in place to verify the effectiveness of our farming and quality control systems?

We can’t assume we will always be immune to a failure in our system and we must be ready to respond to it in a way that re-assures our customers to the north.

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