How is Food Safety Critical to Our Economy and Export Reputation?

July 16, 2020

How is food safety critical to our economy and export reputation?

When most New Zealanders think food safety, we tend to think about the food we purchase and consume from supermarkets, takeaways, cafes and other retailers. However, as a food producing nation, food safety is also critically important to our export economy and protecting our international reputation for quality.

According to The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the New Zealand food and beverage industry accounts for 46% of all goods and services exports. There are a wealth of different industries and products involved in supporting our export economy and IANZ plays a vital role in ensuring they are not only safe to consume, but are considered ‘market ready’ by the 106 countries we currently export to. In fact, we helped Kiwi exporters add $41 billion to the economy last year.

So who are these companies and how we ensuring their food products are safe for export and will be welcomed by countries around the world? Our export industry takes products from farm to plate. That means there are many different companies involved at different stages of the export journey, including: farmers and growers; manufacturers of food, wine, dairy and animal products; and packing, storage and transport companies.

Depending on the nature of their business, all of these companies are required to operate under different legislation, whether that is the Food Act, Wine Act, Animal Products Act, or Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines Acts. IANZ accredited inspection bodies go on-site and assess businesses working in all of these industries to ensure they are meeting the standards, regulations and requirements.

The scope of activities that IANZ accredited inspection bodies undertake is vast and can include things such as:

- Undertaking complex verifications of manufacturing and processing plants that make products for both the NZ market and for export

- Verifiers checking wine producers to make sure that wine sold is safe and that labelling requirements have been met

- Assessors going to dairy farms to check areas such as food safety, animal health and welfare

-  Veterinarians who verify that animals meet export requirements before shipment

- Engineers checking the heat treatment systems used to kill harmful bugs and bacteria in dairy products like cheese and milk

IANZ also accredits the laboratories that operate under regulatory programmes for the testing of dairy and meat products, seafood, honey and wine. Like inspection bodies, IANZ accredited laboratories have people, equipment, processes and procedures that have been rigorously assessed against international standards and found to be competent. These laboratories range from small organisations that conduct testing for a specific company or client requirements through to larger contractors or in-house company laboratories like Fonterra, Silver Fern Farms and Villa Maria. Particular areas of recent interest for accredited laboratories have been the testing of Manuka honey and edible hemp products.

Haumaru Kai Aotearoa - New Zealand Food Safety, a business unit of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), supports New Zealand’s food industries on the global front and grows international recognition for New Zealand’s regulatory framework and standards. Accreditation is an integral part of this framework and promotes acceptance of our regulatory systems. Government authorities like MPI increasingly expect formal accreditation to international standards as a reliable measure of competence.

New Zealand is an exporting nation. However, to export our products to another country, there are often non-tariff barriers to trade. These are rules that make it costly or difficult to export to a particular market.

Luckily, in New Zealand, IANZ is part of a Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA), which covers over 80 economies worldwide. Through this MRA, countries all over the world can accept reports from IANZ accredited laboratories and inspection bodies, confident that these export products meet international standards and criteria.

This means our export products don’t need to be re-tested when they arrive and are considered ‘market ready’, which lowers the cost and time to get our products to market.

Which is great for our exporters and the economy. So when we are all able to travel overseas again, and you are enjoying some New Zealand sauvignon blanc in Australia or lamb in Ireland or butter in England or honey in Japan, think about the many amazing people and organisations back home who played a part in taking this product safely from farm to plate.

Jennifer Foley

Programme Manager for Inspection Body Accreditation

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