Thursday, June 13, 2024

Food importers fined after allergens get lost in translation

The Auckland food product importers who failed to translate food allergen declarations into English, have been fined a total of $28,000 following an investigation by New Zealand Food Safety.

In the Auckland District Court, Tokyo Food Company Limited was was fined $21,000 after pleading guilty to two charges under the Food Act, and Japan Mart 2014 Company Limited was fined $7,000 after pleading guilty to one charge under the Act.

“Tokyo Food Company Limited and Japan Mart 2014 Company Limited are New Zealand registered companies and we’d expect them to have known they needed to declare on the labelling that the product contained soy sauce or fish products, in English, so that people who suffer from allergies are aware,” says New Zealand Food Safety deputy director general, Vincent Arbuckle.

Food Safety compliance officers found through studying records that between 9 January 2020 and 26 October 2021, Tokyo Food imported and sold Seasoned Seaweed Salad, also known as Goma Wakame to a range of well-known supermarket businesses.

Officers found that the labels supplied with their 1kg and 300g packages did not comply with the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code because they did not declare the allergen, soy, as being present. Between 21 and 26 October, two consumer recalls of the product were done. In total, 32,796 1kg packages of Seasoned Seaweed Salad and 7,752 packages of 300g Nobu brand Seasoned Seaweed Salad were sold.

“The other company, Japan Mart 2014 Company Limited imported and sold 96 bags of the Calbee brand of potato chips between 2 February and 14 June 2021. A member of the public made a complaint after purchasing a bag and noting the ingredients list in Japanese included scallop and bonito fish but was not translated into English on the label.”

“Our responsibility is to consumers and their safety. People should expect to feel confident that all imported food is subject to consistently high safety standards and is fit for purpose. When we find evidence of non-compliance, such as not declaring ingredients that could potentially affect the health of consumers, we will take action, including removing products from shelves, and in serious cases, placing the offending before the Courts.

“In August 2023, New Zealand Food Safety strengthened the requirements for all New Zealand food importers. The changes clarify the role and responsibilities of food importers when they bring food into New Zealand, to ensure that the food is safe and suitable for Kiwi consumers. We encourage all registered food importers to go and check the Ministry for Primary Industries website to make sure they are following the updated rules,” says Vincent Arbuckle.

The updated requirements can be found in the Requirements for Registered Food Importers and Imported Food for Sale.

Requirements for Registered Food Importers and Imported Food for Sale [PDF, 339 KB]

Food importers with any questions can contact New Zealand Food Safety on 0800 00 83 33 or info@mpi.govt.nz.

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