In berry fields across Australia growers are united in hoping that the berry imports scandal this week will lead to governments beginning to listen to their concerns.
National president of the Australian Blueberry Growers Association and Tasmanian blueberry farmer Greg McCulloch says that it is time for imported products to face the same regulations as those grown domestically.
"What we find unbelievable is that we have these standards imposed on us - and as Australian farmers we impose standards on ourselves as well - but the Australian government allows imports in that don't meet those same standards. Governments promise to address this but they never deliver. It's disgraceful that something like this (the outbreak of hepatitis A) can happen in this day and age. Any food - especially that which is eaten uncooked, including frozen berries, which often are eaten in smoothies and the like - has got to be properly tested," he said.
The astounding fact is that, despite multiple hepatitis A outbreaks in Europe in recent years linked to the very same product, the federal Department of Agriculture failed to classify the frozen berry imports from China as "high risk." It is, fair to say, beyond belief.
The department has confirmed that frozen berry imports from China are classified as "surveillance foods" which means that foods are tested at a rate of 5% of all consignments for 49 chemical residues along with labelling and packaging requirements. It is important to note however, that testing for pathogens such as Hepatits A is not conducted.
Mr McCulloch echoed the feelings of fellow Aussie farmers when he pointed out that this is in stark contrast to the hurdles local growers had to clear before exporting to China. "We export cherries to China here but before they get exported, every year the Chinese come down and inspect our pack-houses - at our cost," he said.
The words "double-standard" and "hypercritical" immediately spring to mind. No wonder Aussie berry farmers are up in arms!
Maybe now that we have an outbreak of Hepatitis A from imported berries something will finally be done to rectify this simply unbelievable situation.
Source : The Australian, February 18 2015