After frozen berries imported from China were linked directly to a spate of hepatitis A infections in Australia, the latter has decided to further fortify its food labeling laws. The decision was announced by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Thursday.
Frozen raspberries sold under the name brands Creative Gourmet and Nanna’s had to be immediately recalled after these were linked to as many as 19 hepatitis A cases across Australia. Initial investigations suggest that contaminated water at the supplier’s packing factory and poor hygiene standards were the reasons for this health scare.
While Australia has no option but to depend on imported food products to a significant degree, the country is now moving towards strengthening food labeling laws in the face of increasing pressure from various Australian consumer groups.
According to the new initiatives, Abbott’s industry and agriculture ministry will submit new food labeling proposals to the cabinet next month. These new proposals would largely focus on improving the transparency offered by country-of-origin labeling.
Among other proposals, food labels could feature a graphic that clearly mentions that the product has neem made in Australia and would also display the percentage of ingredients that originate from Australia, according to Ian Macfarlane, the industry minister of Australia. Currently, food labeling on products does not specify the percentage of imported ingredients contained in food products. In the case of the recent recalled berries, for instance, the berries were grown in Chile and China, but were packed in the latter.
The berry food scare in Australia recently intensified with reports of tuna imported from Thailand, which was served in a café in central Sydney, led to four scombroid fish poisoning among four customers who had consumed the fish. The New South Wales food authority is currently investigating the matter.