THE recent frozen berry contamination scandal has firmly put the spotlight on food safety standards in Australia, despite our country enjoying an enviable reputation as a producer of the highest-quality foods, with some of the most stringent testing and safety standards in the developed world.
But, at times, these same safety standards and our associated regulatory framework have caused some of our primary producers to complain that the "over-regulation" adds too significantly to the cost of doing business to the point of making it difficult to compete with overseas imports.
And we have seen any number of examples of cheap imports killing off Australian-made industries in recent years.
Who would have imagined that Golden Circle pineapple pieces could ever have the potential to disappear from Australian supermarket shelves?
Many people argue that the major supermarket chains have played a significant role in the proliferation of imported brands dominating the shelves at the expense of local products with lower retail margins.
But if ever the perfect storm had been created for local producers to fight back surely it is right now when the serious risks associated with cheap imports have been so publicly and graphically evidenced through the frozen berry hepatitis outbreak.
We, as Australians, should be very proud of the quality of the produce that our primary industries put on the table and the confidence with which consumers are able to buy locally-made products because of our high food safety standards.
This should be a real selling point among Australian consumers. Perhaps it is time that our government legislate to not only require disclosure of the country of origin of all products but also publication on the label of all food safety standards that the manufacturers have complied with.
What a competitive advantage that would be for Australian producers.
Travis Schultz, practice group leader
Schultz Toomey O'Brien Lawyers, part of the Slater & Gordon Group
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