Protectionism versus safety took the centre stage of debate between the Rudd administration and the domestic beef industry along with the main opposition while the Australian government declared the removal of ban on beef importation on Monday. Prior to the announcement, the Coalition senators and about 1000 beef producers gathered in Armidale to protest against the government’s possible new ruling.
In 1996, Australia was forced to impose ban on beef imports from the UK and later in 2001 for countries including the US and Canada after these beef exporting nations reported cases of mad cow disease or the BSE. People could contract this disease if they consumed portions of brains or spinal cords of infected animals.
Under the new importation laws, only imports of muscle meat, or products of muscle meat, that is not infected with the BSE will be allowed into Australia. The country of origin must apply to the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) for permission to export beef to the region. The minimum period for the application assessment is fixed at 20 weeks, and if situation warrants, the applicant has to undergo an in-country inspection that could even delay the process beyond the normal time frame.
However, the major exporting nations such as the US and Canada do not meet the Australian stringent safety standards. But the Agriculture Minister of Australia Tony Burke said the country’s strict quarantine standards for beef and other products must not be an excuse for protectionism.
On the contrary, Queensland Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce and NSW Liberal Senator Bill Heffernan stated they would move a private bill proposing that exporting countries installed the Australian-equivalent testing regimes and traceability standards to protect citizens from eating contaminated beef. Likewise, Nationals Leader Warren Truss as well as Page Nationals candidate, Kevin Hogan voiced similar concerns over the non-labelling of the origin of beef as they felt consumers should have the option to choose what was safe for them.
According to sources, supermarkets including Coles and Woolworths have shown solidarity with the domestic beef industry by declaring that they would only sell the Australian beef. Nevertheless, a spokesman of Woolworths admitted that it would be beyond its control to identify what beef went into processed foods, such as meat pies and canned products.
Toboc Trade News