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MPI must name product and supermarket chain

The Ministry of Primary Industries must name the product responsible for severe gastroenteritis affecting people around the country, and the supermarket chain distributing it, Labour’s Food Safety spokesperson Damien O’Connor says.

“The Ministry seems to be more concerned about protecting the reputation supermarkets than the health of Kiwi consumers.

“About 127 people have contracted yersinia pseudotuberculosis in the past month, including 38 who have become so unwell they had to be hospitalised.

“Canterbury medical officer of health Dr Alistair Humphrey today told media bagged lettuce and carrots from one particular supermarket chain was identified as the source of the bug in a report from Environmental Science and Research a week ago.

“MPI either lacks the resources or is incapable of dealing with what should be a relatively minor food safety issue. This will be a concern to our export sectors.

“It also reinforces Labour’s call for New Zealand to return to a stand-alone food safety agency.

“MPI has a conflict of interest between promoting New Zealand products and protecting Kiwi consumers. This was identified in the Government’s own 2013 investigation into the Fonterra botulism scare which found it needed to clarify its ‘potentially conflicting roles… between enabler and enforcer’.

“It is time the Ministry put Kiwi consumers first and publicly released the cause of this nasty bug,” Damien O’Connor says.