Tainted Chinese berries may spur reform of Australian food labelling

jueves 19 de febrero de 2015 17:00 GYT

* Thirteen Australians have hepatitis A, more cases expected

* Farmers, consumer groups push for changes to product labelling

* Tests continue on berries packed in China

By Jane Wardell

SYDNEY, Feb 20 (Reuters) - An outbreak of hepatitis A in Australia, probably caused by frozen berries packaged in China, is giving added impetus to moves to tighten the country's murky food labelling laws and could fuel a backlash against imported food.

Proposed changes that would more clearly identify the origin of food on supermarket shelves, combined with growing pressure on consumers to buy local produce, may curb the appetite for Chinese imports and could undercut a landmark free trade deal.

"I want to make sure I do everything in my power to say to people 'your safest food is your domestic food'," Federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce said on Wednesday.

Thirteen Australians have been diagnosed with hepatitis A, a viral disease affecting the liver, after eating frozen mixed berries sold by Patties Foods Ltd and health officials expect to identify more cases in coming weeks.

The berries were grown in Chile and China before being packaged at a Chinese factory, where poor hygiene and tainted water supplies are thought to have caused the health problems. Hepatitis A is passed through contact with material that has been contaminated with faeces from an infected person.   Continuación...