PM weighs in on Berry-Hep A health scare



Prime Minister Tony Abbott has ordered an urgent review into food labelling laws following a fortnight of health scares from imported food.

Four people are suffering from suspected Scombroid fish poisoning in Sydney after eating tuna imported from Thailand at a CBD cafe.

The incident follows a hepatitis A scare involving frozen berries imported from China which has so far infected 18 people.

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Mr Abbott ordered Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce to prepare an urgent cabinet submission into country-of-origin food labelling after concerns about lack of information on packaging.

Mr Abbott said the government was determined to give Australians better country-of-origin labelling, but promised it wouldn’t come at the cost of business.

“Obviously, we do need regulation, but it’s got to be efficient and effective regulation,” he said.

The government is looking at a simple graphic that clearly indicates the percentage of Australian and imported content of packaged food.

Mr Macfarlane said any changes could come at the cost of consumers.

“We are going to have to break eggs to make an omelette,” Mr Macfarlane told reporters on Thursday.

“But those changes have to be made if consumers are to have the information they need on their food products.”

Cabinet is expected to consider the Macfarlane-Joyce submission in March.

Local food growers have welcomed the prospect of pie chart-style labelling for imported products.

AUSVEG chief executive Richard Mulcahy said labelling on products would be ideal to clearly inform people where their food had come from.

“There are conditions under which food is prepared in a number of these countries that just aren’t acceptable to Australian standards,” Mr Mulcahy told Fairfax radio.

“I share the concern that there are conditions under which food is prepared in a number of these countries that just aren’t acceptable to Australian standards.”

– with AAP

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