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16 October 2001
The importance of safe food - to both local and international consumers is the focus of this year's MAF Food conference being held in Auckland this week.
The Group Director of MAF Food, Dr Andrew McKenzie says consumers are demanding more and more of our food producers and that is going to drive the way the country's farmers, food producers and processors go about their business.
"Eighty percent of the food New Zealand produces is exported, and it's vital we know the strength of overseas feeling about food safety," says Dr McKenzie.
To this end, a number of the speakers at the conference will be addressing overseas consumer concerns and trends.
Conference keynote speakers include Diane McCrea - an independent consultant on food and consumer affairs based in London. Ms McCrea undertakes a wide range of projects for consumer organisations, research and professional bodies and trade and producer groups. She has interests in organic food production, food labelling and international standards relating to this and food safety and hygiene. She has worked for the UK Consumers' Association, speaking in the media on issues such as BSE and food scares. She will address the conference on some of the international trends around food production as it relates to consumers.
Also focusing on the consumer's right to safe food is Caroline Smith de Waal - the Director of Food Safety for the United States Centre for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). CSPI is an educational and advocacy organisation that works to improve the safety and nutritional quality of the US food supply. Ms Smith DeWaal is an eloquent and strong advocate for consumer rights to quality safe food. Her recent work includes lobbying for accurate food labelling, including true labelling of GE food and protecting consumers from BSE (mad cow disease) and contaminated shellfish. Her conference presentation will focus on consumer concerns in the United States and the implications of these for New Zealand farmers.
Ray Ellard, the Chief Specialist in Environmental Health with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland will give an insight into the recent experience of establishing Ireland's new Food Safety Authority.
The conference is not just focussed on the international scene. Along with the "big picture" speakers, there will be some very practical addresses and workshops on topics such as addressing consumer concerns in the fresh produce sector and running programmes to manage risks in food production - be that in large exporting firm or a small café.
A wide range of local speakers include:
The conference is being held on 17-18 October at Auckland's Heritage Hotel. You are welcome to attend any part of the programme. All conference speakers are available for interview.
For further information, contact:
Sandra Daly Director Business Services MAF Food Assurance Authority Ph. 021 735-696