True costs of imported food in Australian supermarkets?
Source: Food Magazine
Photo by Tait Schmaal in an article for Adelaide Now about the damage imported processed food is doing to local growers.
From “Where does the food sold in Australian supermarkets really come from?” by Jessica Burke:
One in every four grocery items now sold in Australian supermarkets is private label and of those, about one in two is imported.
The Age has conducted an investigation into the state of the supermarket sector, and the results would not surprise anyone in the Australian food manufacturing sector. It found the rate of imported food products is increasing at a rapid pace, as the only way for the companies to provide their ridiculously low prices is to buy food produced in countries by cheap labour.
South Africa and Thailand, two countries notorious for lacking in workers’ rights and having extremely low wages, are two of the markets commonly used by the cheap food retailers in Australia. Researchers from the Australian National University embarked on a mission to follow the supply chain of many private-label products sold in Australia, which found them in South African fruit processing factories and canned pineapple facilities in Thailand. “One of the canneries made private-label products for over 100 supermarkets,” researcher Libby Hattersley, who inspected the South African businesses, told The Age. “They just slap the retailers’ label on it and send it out to them.”
Differing food safety laws a risk for consumers
While the ethical issues involved with sourcing food from such countries are becoming increasingly important to consumers, there are various other issues involved with these systems.
“[No Australian food manufacturers] can survive in this environment, most places I’m going, they’re even competing with their own plants in other countries, if the Malaysian or Chinese plant is going better, they have to compete,” Jennifer Dowell, National Secretary of the Food and Confectionary division of the Australian Manufacturers Workers Union (AMWU) told Food Magazine earlier this year.
“The problem with that is that people aren’t comparing like with like.
“We produce food to a very high level and what is being imported from overseas needs to be the same quality.
“There needs to be more regulation and better testing for what comes into our country.
“If food is imported from a high risk site, like China, that will undergo testing, but not if it’s from New Zealand.
“The way the import laws work in New Zealand mean that they can import a product from China, put it in a bag in New Zealand and ship it to Australia as a ‘product of New Zealand.’
“If we try to export to other countries we face huge barriers, but we have removed all the barriers for others getting food into our country.”
Read the full article by Jessie Burke for Food Magazine.