Food Bill concerns

Over the Christmas break a huge number of emails were flying around on the Food Bill. Not all of it was easy to follow or correct but there is obviously a lot of  genuine concern about what is proposed and amendments are needed.
As Chair of the Grey Lynn Farmers’ Market Management Committee I’ve pulled together what I think are the main issues. 
Community food under threat
Unique to the Grey Lynn Farmers’ Market is the community trading table. Back garden growers can bring their excess produce to sell at the table. It works on an honesty box system. Bundle, label and price your produce to leave at the table with a container for coins. Come back at the end of the market to collect your earnings and anything unsold.

The table started at the market in April 2011 as a bit of an experiment to fill the gap left when the Ooooby ended their stall to focus on weekly food boxes. It has become a much loved and popular part of our market that goes beyond just selling home grown veges for extra pocket money. It is a central place to meet, exchange ideas and marvel over the wonders of what can be grown in a back garden.

It is therefore of huge concern that the trading table, as well as the market as a whole, is under treat because of the onerous food regulations proposed in the draft Food Bill. The bill aims to update 30-year-old legislation to better protect consumers and create a new framework for food safety. We  support a review of the Food Act 1981 as it needs to be updated, unfortunately the Bill as drafted:

  • Places onerous and potentially expensive compliance costs on small operators. This is particularly worrying for traders at farmers’ markets who already operate within limited margins
  • Requires small growers, people who sell food directly to consumers, and those who barter or swap food to have a “national safety plan”. It is unlikely the trading table would be able to continue with these requirements
  • Includes seeds for cultivation and food seedlings in the current definition of “food” thereby extending the scope of the Bill to seed exchanges
  •  Gives excessive powers to food safety officers to  to enter and search premises without a warrant in some circumstances and use any force necessary, while being immune from civil or criminal liability.

Food safety is a paramount consideration at farmers’ markets and we recognise the need to take a best practice approach to keeping our customers healthy. There are many aspects of the Food Bill that improve the approach of the current legislation. However we want to ensure the Food Bill does not have the potential to threaten farmers’ markets and the unique role they play in encouraging local food production and access to reasonably priced produce.

The GLFM will be calling on the Minister for Food Safety, Kate Wilkinson to respond to the genuine concerns about the Food Bill. There is still time to make amendments to the Bill so we can look forward to keeping our trading table operating within a vibrant farmers market providing fresh, local and seasonal produce to our community.

Grey Lynn Farmers Market featured on a Campbell Live item on the Food Bill, 22 November 2011 

Petition opposing the Food Bill

Interested in using the Trading Table? Free for Friends of the Market or $3 per casual user . More details here