Butchers prosecuted for use of sulphites in raw meat

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The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) has successfully prosecuted 15 meat wholesalers/retailers and three company directors for the non-compliant use of sulphites/sulphur dioxide in raw meat.

MPI laid charges after an operation in the greater Auckland area in 2013 where samples of meat were taken for sulphites/sulphur dioxide analysis.

The operation was undertaken as part of MPI’s statutory obligation to ensure food safety standards are being met under the Food Act 1981.

The cases were heard in the Manukau and Auckland district courts in late 2014 and early 2015 and resulted in fines ranging from $350 to $4,500, depending on the scope and severity of offending.

MPI Compliance Operations Manager Gary Orr says that operations such as this are undertaken where a risk is identified and are part of MPI’s ongoing efforts to ensure that food available to consumers is safe.

“MPI takes food safety very seriously and our Food Act Officers put in a great deal of effort to ensure the public can be confident that food available for purchase in New Zealand is safe and suitable.”

Sulphites and sulphur dioxide are food additives used as a preservative in some foods. The additives are only permitted in specified food products, such as sausages, with maximum permitted levels specified.

Foods containing sulphites/sulphur dioxide can cause serious reactions in certain individuals who are sensitive to them. Due to the potential serious health effects of the consumption of these additives, their use is strictly controlled by the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code and is required to be declared to consumers.

It is not allowed to be used in raw meat.

The illegal use of additives breaches the Food Act 1981 and can result in a fine of up to $5,000 for an individual or $20,000 for a body corporate.

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