News brief: Asia-Pacific tackles BSE, obesity, GM and food prices

By Charlotte Eyre

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags New zealand Nutrition

China bemoans food prices, Korea fears for its safety
standards, while New Zealand tackles the obesity crisis and
declares GM onions to be scandal free.

Chinafood prices soar ​Soaring food prices in the country have forced manufacturers to raise prices by 6.5 per cent, prompting worries that a consumer outcry could carry over to other sectors of the economy, Reuters said this week. The inflation rate is up from 5.6 per cent in July, and has increased by the fastest pace in 11 years, the news agency said. The biggest price raises were seen with food oil, eggs, vegetables and pork. If this trend continues consumers could start to demand higher salaries, which would have a knock-down effect on the whole economy, Reuters said. Koreacries for US beef ban ​Several Korean officials this week called for a ban on US beef imports, despite the two countries earlier this year agreeing to lift restrictions as part of a trade deal, local news reports said this week. According to the Korea Herald, the officials submitted a resolution to the Korean National Assembly stating that US beef should be banned due to the risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) contamination. They accused the US of being "lax"​ in its food safety measures, and stated that the safety of U.S. beef "cannot be proven scientifically".​ The ministers' requests could slow down US-Korea trade deal proceedings, due to be ratified at the beginning of 2008. The deal was designed to improve the trade of food products between the two countries. GM onions on the menu in New Zealand ​The New Zealand government yesterday approved a controversial trial of genetically modified (GM) onions, after suspicions that researchers were illegally importing seeds from the US. The Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) said that it was confident that the seeds came from New Zealand plants, and therefore the Crop and Food Research company had "not breached biosecurity rules in its research". ​Concerns were raised, ERMA said, after Crop and Food Research used the wrong form when asking for government approval. However, this was "a minor clerical error",​ ERMA added. "They corrected the mistake and everything now complies with the rules." ​Crop and Food is currently trying to grow onions that are resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, sold under the brand name Roundup. Tax sugary breakfast foods - says group ​The New Zealand government should impose a "fat tax"​ on cereals that contain up to 40 per cent sugar, a pressure group warned. The Obesity Policy Coalition said Monday that certain cereals were contributing to the obesity problem in the country, which will result in 60 per cent of children being overweight in the next 30 years. "High-sugar cereals are basically junk food dressed up as a nutritious start to the day and some of them contain as much sugar as confectioneries,"​ said Jane Martin, the group's senior policy adviser. The coalition called for the government to impose the same tax on cereals that currently applies to cakes, pastries and other sweetened baker goods, claiming that the government is currently subsidising "dangerously healthy"​ breakfast foods. The coalition also called for a complete ban on marketing unhealthy food to children, as well as traffic light labels on all food products.

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