‘Buyer beware’ when it comes to ‘fresh’ fruit

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Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) has put industry profit before peoples health in its recommendation to approve irradiation of all types of fruit and vegetables between quarantine zones in Australia and New Zealand. Consumers are right to feel betrayed and ask that New Zealand and Australian Ministers do not approve the FSANZ decision.

It is now a case of ‘buyers beware’, demanding extra diligence in buying fresh produce grown in New Zealand. The importance of pure, high quality of nutrient dense fresh produce is of major importance for our health.

“Unless Ministers intervene now people will need to take extra care in checking labels on imported fresh fruit and vegetables and use their purchasing power to buy New Zealand grown produce and reject irradiated food,” said Claire Bleakley, president of GE-Free NZ.

Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) have recommended to the Ministerial Forum, which meets this week on the 9-10 July to ratify their recommendation to approve the irradiation of all Australian fresh fruit and vegetables exported to New Zealand. [1]

Though FSANZ has denied the statement, there is evidence to show that the irradiation doses intended to be applied to the vegetables and fruit will be nutritionally reduced and proteins changed or broken down. Shelf life would also be extended, but the fruit would not ripen properly as the ripening process is delayed. So fruit and vegetables appearing to be fresh may be partially cooked but unripe, hard and long past their best. [2]

The Queensland applicant stated that the need to irradiate food was needed for trade reasons to stop fruit fly infestation. This is blatantly untrue as in 2019, The Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI) New Zealand stated that there have been only 5 Queensland fruit flies found and eliminated in the last decade. [3]

“The last 2 fruit flies were discovered and eliminated in 2020,” said Bleakley “This means that the existing phytosanitary methods are appropriate for the control and detection of the Queensland Fruit fly and the ability to control are excellent.”

It is to be recognised that irradiation of food will not be mandatory and other phytosanitary options are available. Of great concern is the New Zealand Food and Grocery council submission that asked for the removal of labelling irradiated food citing that it was “costly for industry and consumers to bear”.

We ask that the Minister Ayesha Verrall registers our concerns over the irradiation of such a large range of fruit and vegetables and supports alternative safer options instead of irradiation.

[1] https://www.foodstandards.govt.nz/code/applications/Pages/A1193.aspx
[2] https://www.stuff.co.nz/life-style/food-drink/125639202/controversial-change-to-allow-irradiation-treatment-of-imported-produce
[3] https://www.mpi.govt.nz/news/media-releases/queenslan

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