NZ Food

Reporter: Lynda Kinkade

Cheap inferior toxic products that would be turned away at our border are coming in through a back door. Foreign products disguised in Kiwi wrapping. Our investigation tracked the raw products to factories in NZ where they were processed, repackaged and exported. Now branded with the trusty made in New Zealand label.

"If you're buying cheap vegetables from overseas 51% of wholesale cost of goods is the made component - nothing has to come from this country to be called made in Australia or made in New Zealand" says Lynne Wilkerson from Ausbuy. Foreign fruit, vegetables, meat and fish shipped into New Zealand under what some describe as soft border controls, are getting the green flag into our country as part of the New Zealand Australian free trade agreement.

"I think they raise questions about the safety of imported produce." New Zealand Greens MP Sue Kegdely, warns Australians should be worried. "The testing at the border is woefully inadequate because we test such a tiny amount of produce coming into NZ."Chinese products are the main offenders, their standards are so poor, tests reveal many contain dangerous pesticides, banned cancer causing chemicals, lead and e coli bacteria from Chinese farmers using human and animal faeces as fertilisers.

China has free passage into New Zealand because of a free trade agreement. It's an agreement Australia doesn't adhere to. When China sends cargo direct to us it goes through rigorous checks by Australian customs, sneaking through New Zealand is their easiest option in.Recent random testing in New Zealand this month of foreign produce has uncovered shocking results.

"Vietnamese catfish contained a substance gentian violet which has been linked with cancer. I think they raise questions about the safety of imported produce if we can find one little bit of testing that 40% of the plums are contaminated with lead what does that mean about the rest of the produce" says Sue. The rest of the produce isn't tested regularly, we only discover the dangers, sometimes when its too late. Cornflour sent from China and "processed" in New Zealand had to be recalled late last year.

22 tonnes of the cornflour makes its way to Australian shores in New Zealand packaging."We believe that alot of food made in New Zealand coming out of New Zealand are actually from China" says Lynne.Ausbuy Chief Executive Lynne Wilkerson blames misleading labelling laws."We're not told where ingredients are imported from or more importantly what percentage of imported goods are in this product" says Lynne. In the last year frozen vegetable imports has shot up by more than 15%.

Officially 45 per cent is coming from New Zealand. 16 per cent from China and 12 per cent from Canada."China has more than doubled the amount of food they are sending into Australia - but that doesn't include food they are sending which is processed in New Zealand and then gets sent here" says Lynne. Many Australian producers can no longer compete with cheap foreign imports, imports that dressed up like local made and owned brands.

McCains is the latest company to close a food processing factory in Australia and move its Tasmanian base across to New Zealand. Its happening around the world, western countries importing cheap inferiors products and allowing their own industry to suffer. "If it doesn't actually say where this is grown you can be assured its probably not grown where its coming from" says Grain farmer Tim Duddley. He believes Australia should not have to import a thing.

"We can produce in excess several hundred times over what we need to support the nation, we export about 85 per cent of our food." "The end of the day we are exporting good quality clean green food the best in the world butt and acknowledged to be the best in the world … and we are importing inferior quality to feed to our people" adds Lynne.