Report shows need for independent food safety agency

The inquiry into the botulism botch-up shows the decision to merge the food safety authority into the Ministry of Primary Industries was a failure, Labour’s Primary Industries spokesperson Damien O’Connor says.

“MPI has been severely criticised in this report for having no coherent crisis plan and not having rigorous risk assessment.

“It is astonishing that the Minister for Primary Industries did not ensure there was a crisis plan. The botulism botch-up was a massive blow to New Zealand’s reputation as a producer of high quality and safe products. Thankfully it was a false alarm but it was still a mega Ministry muck up.

“If an even more serious problem was to hit our primary industries and the Ministry still doesn’t have a proper plan then New Zealand’s economy could be at risk.

“MPI should never have been allowed to take over the old food safety authority. The roles are completely different. MPI works with the industry whereas an independent food safety agency should critique the industry’s standards.

“The Government must take food safety out of MPI and make it an independent agency that is unafraid to challenge the big fish in primary industries.

“The Government has supported significant growth in dairy, but haven’t kept pace with food safety.

“The merger that created MPI was part of National’s attempt to cut back on public servants but there are more pencil-pushers now than there have been for five years. It has been a failure,” says Damien O’Connor.