The Green Party in New Zealand has said that mandatory country of origin labelling (COOL) for foods sold in the country would be one of its top priorities in any post-election policy agreement.
The party said that it believed the time was right for other political parties to come on board for mandatory COOL for fresh produce and single ingredient foods.
Green Party food spokesperson and Member of Parliament Sue Kedgley said that currently there is no requirement for retailers to advise consumers where their food comes from, and many do not bother to inform them.
She claims that mandatory labelling of food is needed to ensure consistency and compliance and that “voluntary country of origin labelling doesn’t work, and even where it has been introduced it has been patchy and inconsistent.”
She added that there would be little cost to introduce COOL and that if consumers were given an informed choice, they would buy New Zealand- produced food, thus keeping more New Zealanders in food industry jobs.
Food body chief calls the mandatory labelling unnecessary
However, Katherine Rich, chief executive of the New Zealand Food and Grocery Council (NZFGC), opposes Kedgley's views and told FoodNavigator-Asia that the voluntary measures in place in New Zealand work extremely well.
“Those calling for mandatory country of origin are really fighting yesterday’s arguments,” she argues, adding that COOL is included on a majority of products already.
According to Rich, the NZFGC opposes mandatory labelling because its implementation would mean an additional cost to industry and consumers, while providing no additional health protection or food safety benefits.
“Plus there is the high prospect of New Zealand processed foods including ingredients from other countries significantly increasing costs,” she said.
Rich added that as a major food exporting nation - New Zealand exports between 80 and 90% of all food produced – mandatory labelling would add costs to trade for very limited but unquantifiable consumer benefit.
“Voluntary use of COOL delivers the benefits that mandatory labelling proponents seek, without imposing additional costs on all consumers or compromising New Zealand’s trading interests,” she said.