The call for stronger country of origin labelling and more rigorous testing of imported fruit has been strengthened by the detection of high levels of lead in Chinese canned peaches last year.
Tests on the fruit showed alarming high levels of lead – up to twice the amount that is legally permissible under the Australian and New Zealand food standard.
Both Commonwealth and Victorian health officials are currently investigating the reports with Liberal MP, Sharman Stone stating that the test results have further reinforced the notion that foreign food imports can carry “high risk” as they are not manufactured to the same strict standards that Australian processors adhere to.
Stone has been pushing for taxpayer-funded aid for Australia’s largest remaining fruit and vegetable processor, SPC Ardmona, stating that the government should be doing more to support local industry by using Australian peaches instead of imported in hospitals and aged care homes.
“I am deeply concerned fruit with dangerous lead levels could be served in hospitals, aged care homes or prisons and also concerned that if we lose our last fruit processor Australian customers may also no longer have a choice to buy Australian tinned fruit,” stone told The Guardian.
Major supermarket retailers, Woolworths, Coles and Aldi last year committed to sourcing only Australian grown fruit for their private label brands in a bid to support the struggling processor, however the company states that it still needs government support to survive.
The labor government had promised a $25m grant to SPCA, with the processor warning last year that it would be forced to close if the Abbott government refused to proceed with the funding.
The Weekly Times Now reports that the $25m assistance package for the processor Goulburn Valley plant will be reassessed tomorrow by Federal Cabinet.