NZFSA reviews non-commercial wild food

August 3 2005

The New Zealand Food Safety Authority is reviewing the food safety aspects of
non-commercial wild food in New Zealand. Non commercial wild food includes all animals, fish and plants that are hunted or harvested for personal consumption.

The purpose of the review is to gain a better understanding of wild food consumption in New Zealand, to determine if there is a risk to public health and, if there is, to develop ways of ensuring that risk is reduced.

Carole Inkster, NZFSA’s Director of Policy explains: “NZFSA has a mandate to protect consumers, whether that’s from commercial or non-commercial food risks, but it needs more information.

“Wild food is not subject to monitoring or risk management in the way that commercially available food is, and any chemical and microbial risks that may exist have never been comprehensively assessed.”

NZFSA has prepared a Draft Position Paper – Review of Non-Commercial Food in New Zealand – which sets out some proposals that could help hunters and other gatherers of wild food. These include:

the inclusion of an additional question in the Adult Nutrition Survey, to be conducted by the Ministry of health in 2007/8. This could provide more robust data on the consumption of wild food

educational activities, including improving availability and access to information

improving or establishing inter-agency government and non-government collaboration in collecting, collating and disseminating information to key target groups

possible future areas of research or data gathering to increase information on wild harvesting and consumption.

Says Carole: “We want to know if some of the measures we are proposing – education, research etc – are the best ways of helping people make informed choices, or whether there are other ways we haven’t thought of.”

As an initial step it its review, NZFSA commissioned a report from the Institute of Environmental and Scientific Research Ltd (ESR) to assess the chemical and microbial risks that may be present in a wide range of wild foods.

The report shows that though wild foods may not present a huge food safety risk, there is a lack of reliable information on harvesting and consumption.

Exposure to chemical contaminants (other than natural toxins in poisonous mushrooms which have been highlighted in recent newspaper reports) via wild foods is usually over a long time, and at low doses, so it’s difficult to assess the risks they pose.

Risks associated with food preparation are not included in the report. Although some preparation methods, such as cooking, can reduce or eliminate many of the hazards identified, the ESR report focuses on hazards present when the food is harvested.

Traditional foods, their sources and methods of gathering are particularly important to Maori and are an integral part of manaakitanga (providing for others). Many make up a significant part of today’s Maori diet, and there is an increasing interest in harvesting wild foods, particularly plants, as novel foods in the commercial market.

NZFSA has worked with a specially convened Maori focus group to consider food safety issues and concerns.

Copies of the ESR report and Draft Position Paper are available for download from NZFSA’s website or in hard copy. Email: audrey.taulalo@nzfsa.govt.nz or phone 04 463 2590.

Public submissions on the Draft Position Paper close on October 28 2005 and can be sent to: Wild Food Review, c/o Policy Group, NZFSA, PO Box 2835, Wellington or email: mary.harvey@nzfsa.govt.nz .

Ends

For further information contact: Diane Robinson, Senior Communications Adviser.
04 463 2528 or 021193 6405

For further comment contact: Carole Inkster, Director, Policy. 04 463 2505 or 021 241 2455