World Food Safety Day - June 7 - is a good opportunity to celebrate the thousands of New Zealanders who work hard every day to keep our food safe, says New Zealand Food Safety deputy director-general Vincent Arbuckle.
"In New Zealand we can take it as a given that the food we eat will not make us sick. These expectations are a luxury not enjoyed in every country, and they didn’t come by accident or without the concerted efforts of thousands of New Zealanders," says Vincent.
Vincent says Kiwis have collectively and deliberately built an effective food safety system through decades of improvements.
"On this special day I’d like to recognise the people who make the system work. They might be on a processing line at a meat factory, in a lab testing for chemical residues, in Wellington developing food safety rules, or waiting tables at a restaurant – it is every one of these people who underpin our system."
New Zealand’s food is sought after around the world because of its high quality and reputation for safety, says Vincent.
"There are high stakes attached to getting this right. There are 5.5 million New Zealanders, and each of us eat about 80,000 meals over our lifetimes.
"Another 40 million people worldwide eat New Zealand food each year. Our food exports make a significant economic contribution to communities throughout the country, generating $34 billion in export earnings every year," says Vincent.
"Food has always been part of our identity, and the food that we eat probably has the greatest impact on our immediate and long-term health and wellbeing. It’s how we celebrate, how we commiserate, and how we connect ourselves to each other and to the land and sea."
New Zealand has been able to maintain its reputation and position through constant innovation, says Vincent.
"From the tangata whenua who adapted food production to suit our different climates, through to the meat exporters who sent shipments of frozen product to Britain in 1882, we’ve always been innovators.
"Our strong culture of food safety will steer us through a new era of food production, driven by changing consumer expectations and developing food science.
"Today is a day for all of us to take a moment to thank the many New Zealanders who combine to make this possible."