Saturday, December 3, 2011

What's wrong with NZ's Food Bill?

The world is in the midst of a food shortage crisis and yet the New Zealand government is trying to pass a 378 page Food Bill that limits our rights to sell and swap food, even home-grown.


Sarah from The Healthy Home Economist (over in the United States) is so horrified that New Zealanders are about to lose many of the privileges we've always taken for granted, she's written a post about it, encouraging us to stand up and fight.

So what's wrong with the Food Bill?

Well, I'm no expert in interpreting government policy, but these are some of the issues that have jumped out at me:

1. Definition of "sale" too broad
A huge flaw in the Food Bill can be found on pages 38-39, in its definition of a sale. This definition is so broad that it captures every possible activity relating to food, including B'n'Bs, community gardens, marae gardens, the roadside sale of fruit and vegetables, food stalls, farmers' markets, even the swapping of seeds and produce between home gardeners.

Page 38-39:
12 Meaning of sale
(1) In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires, sale, in relation to food,—
(a) means selling food for processing and handling or for human consumption; and
(b) includes—
     (i) reselling food for processing and handling or for human consumption; and
     (ii) offering food or attempting to sell food, or receiving or having food in possession for sale, or exposing food for sale, or sending or delivering food for sale, or causing or permitting food to be sold, offered, or exposed for sale; and 
     (iii) bartering food; and
     (iv) selling, or offering to sell, any thing of which any food forms a part; and 
     (v) supplying food, together with any accommodation, service, or entertainment, as part of an inclusive charge; and
(vi) supplying food in exchange for payment or in relation to which payment is to be made in a shop, hotel, restaurant, at a stall, in or on a craft or vehicle, or any other place; and 
(vii) for the purpose of advertisement or to promote any trade or business, offering food as a prize or reward to the public, whether on payment of money or not, or giving away food; and
(viii) exporting food; and
(ix) every other method of disposition of food for valuable consideration.

2. Community group fundraisers and people wanting to trade food for personal development limited to 20 times a year
Community groups selling food as part of a fundraiser will be able to get away with it up to 20 times a year, if they abide by information set out in the Food Handler Guidance (pages 87-88).

Anything over that will be deemed a commercial affair and need to operate under a registered food control plan or a national programme.

Note: Community organisations selling food in a permanent stall as an aside to their normal activities are exempt from needing to be registered.

Page 89
94 Exemption if trading in food is for charitable purpose 
(1) This section applies if a person or an organisation (whether a body corporate or not)—
(a) trades in food for a charitable purpose; and
(b) carries out trading in food for that purpose—
(i) on a non-commercial scale; and
(ii) on either of the following: 
(A) an infrequent basis that does not exceed, regardless of the location, more than 20 occasions in each calendar year; or
(B) a regular or frequent basis so long as the trading is an ancillary or incidental component of activities being undertaken by the
person or organisation at the place where the trading occurs (for example, a permanent stall selling donated food at a hospice).
(2) The person or organisation is exempt from the requirement to operate under a registered food control plan or a national
(3) However, the person or organisation must operate under any food handler guidance that applies to the trade in food concerned.
(4) In this section, charitable purpose includes every charitable purpose, whether it relates to the relief of poverty, the advancement
of education or religion, or any other matter beneficial to the community.

94A Exemption if trading in food is for personal development purpose
(1) This section applies if a person or group of persons—
(a) trades in food for a personal development purpose; and
(b) carries out trading in food for that purpose—
(i) on a non-commercial scale; and
(ii) on an infrequent basis that does not exceed, regardless of the location, more than 20 occasions in each calendar year.
(2) The person or group is exempt from the requirement to operate under a registered food control plan or a national programme.
(3) However, the person or group must operate under any food handler guidance that applies to the trade in food concerned.
(4) In this section, personal development purpose means a purpose that relates to the intellectual, emotional, physical, social, 
cultural, or other personal development of a person or members of a group.

3. Small-scale food traders 
Small enterprises that want to sell or barter more than 20 times a year will either have to operate under a registered food control plan or a national programme, or they will have to apply for exemption individually.

This is a huge waste of time and resources, and I think will discourage small-scale food trading like individual stall-holders at farmers markets, B'n'Bs, roadside produce stalls and more.

Page 6: "Very small-scale food traders, or “cottage industries” are not distinguished in the bill. It would be difficult to quantify “small-scale” in terms of profit, quantity of product, or number of people involved in the operation, and it is also difficult to define a “cottage” food industry. Doing so could have the effect of inappropriately including or excluding particular food-trading activities. Therefore we do not recommend a generic “cottage industry” provision, and propose instead that any exemption from the requirement to operate under a food control plan or national programme regulations could be made on a case-by-case basis through the exercise of the chief executive’s exemption power under this clause."

What can we do?
As Andy Kentworthy has written in his article, Food Bill: What's the fuss? in Issue 21 of Good Magazine, "It's dangerous to allow badly constructed laws to pass on the assumption that some of it won't be enforced. The Food Bill needs amending so that activities currently unfairly captured are exempt."

So what can we do about it? The Food Bill has already passed its submission stage - very quietly and under the radar I might add. I was not aware about the Food Bill until it was too late to make a submission.

However, you can still sign an online petition to let the government know you oppose the Food Bill. The petition requires 50,000 signatures and so far has just over 10,000. We need to act fast, before Parliament reconvenes in the New Year and pushes the Bill through.

It only takes a minute to sign the petition, and I think it's a good idea as the more people who sign it, the more care Government will have to take with the Food Bill.

You could also write directly to the Minister of Food and Safety, Hon Kate Wilkinson, expressing your concerns with the bill.
Hon Kate Wilkinson

I'd love to hear your thoughts on the Food Bill. Trying to wade through and understand it is doing my head in, so any insight from others would be greatly appreciated.

Linked to Patchwork Living Blogging Bee.


  1. It is a hard read. I don't quite understand it myself, but am thinking of going to visit our MP and see what we can do about it. Not quite sure how that works either but we need to do something.


  2. That's a great idea Jodie! Let me know how you get on.

  3. I read that post by Sarah, but I thought she must have got something wrong, because it sounds bizarre!... and scary. But reading the sections of the bill that you posted confirms what Sarah wrote. What is going on in the minds of these people when they draft these bills?

  4. Thanks again for your informative posts. The link to the petition doesn't seem to work, can you re-post it please. I wonder why the Greens haven't been making a song and dance about this? Leanne

  5. Hey Leanne, thanks for letting me know the links weren't working. I've just fixed them.

    The Greens have requested some amendments to the bill, but supported the bill when it went through it's first reading. I'm not sure what to make of that.


    You can sign this link to oppose the food bill

  7. Hi, the Greens did not oppose the bill because they were the ones that presented it to Parliament in the first place. The Greens are not as "green" as you would like to believe, as they are geared toward globalization. In other words, the Greens are basically the monarch in disguise (Prince Charles and his cronies) -- look up "The Round Table" and the Club of Rome, and you will find that the Greenies are all about the Club of Rome. They do not have PEOPLE's interest at heart.

  8. Thanks for the link to sign the petition. Ever since I heard about this bill I was horrified and wanted to know what I could do to support NZ from the States!

  9. Hello I can not get the links to wrok either and Want to NEED 2 sign it

  10. People just need to realise that our governments don't really care about the population of our country, its all about the almighty DOLLAR and making the rich richer, Sad but true. Why are we following the american way, It hasn't worked for them. LOOK FOR A MOVIE CALLED 'FOOD INC' this is all about the food industry over there, and if you cant see comparisions to whats happening here then you need to watch it again. What is NZ coming to when ARMED officers can raid your house because you have a vege garden.



  11. Hi Joyce, I just checked the link again and it is working for me. It takes you to petition online.

  12. part 2:

    - Organic producers of heirloom foods could lose market share to big-money agribusiness, leading to an increase in the consumption of nutrient-poor and GE foods.

    - It turns a human right (to grow food and share it) into a government-authorized privilege that can be revoked by the Governor-General.

    - It makes it illegal to distribute “food” without authorization, and it defines “food” in such a way that it includes nutrients, seeds, natural medicines, essential minerals and drinks (including water).

    - It will push up mainstream food prices by subjecting producers to compliancy costs. Food prices are already rising due to increased energy costs and commodity speculation, while disposable incomes are falling.

    - Growing food for distribution must be authorized, even for “cottage industries”, and such authorization can be denied.

    - The Government has created this bill to keep in line with its World Trade Organization obligations under an international scheme called Codex Alimentarius (“Food Code”). So it has to pass this bill in one form or another.

    - There are problems with Codex also. Codex will place severe restrictions on the content of vitamins, minerals and therapeutic compounds in food, drinks and supplements etc. The Food Bill means that non-complying producers can be shut down easily – thus it paves the way for the legal enforcement of Codex food regulations.

    Auckland 6.45pm - Fri 11th Nov 2011
    Community Centre
    510 Richmond Road
    Grey Lynn

    Wellington 6.45pm - Sat 12th Nov 2011
    Community Centre
    Aro Street

    Dunedin 6.45pm - Sun 13th Nov 2011
    (Specific Venue to be Announced)

  13. It's probably being driven by one of the big USA companies who's looking to make a profit somehow. I live in the USA and I love my country but big corporations sometimes get too big for their pants and go around causing trouble for everyone.

  14. If you look up google, There are very similer bills to NZ food Bill passed in USA in November 2010 and soon after in Canada. One of the name of the bills is HR875 Farm bill Food Safety. YOu will understand very cleary the true purpose of this Food Bill. US layers working for Codex Alimentarius have written this 600 page bill to give way Monsanto and other huge seeds compamny to take total control of the food supply globally.
    Most food borne illness come from the poor hygiene of the consumer of the food not from the produce or product. People need to learn how to store and preserve food properly and not using expired or soiled produce.cause Need to be educated the importance of washing their hands or cleaning soil form veges before cooking. NZ produce are highest quality in the world free from GMO and mostly spray free or reduced spray veges and fruit. We do not need such a complicated Food bill to reduce our production of clean and nutritious produce.

    Petition to stop this food bill is


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