Cheese makers set to storm parliament
A smallscale cheese maker is hauling her raw milk cheese to Parliament.
Katikati's Mount Eliza Cheese owner Jill Whalley says New Zealand artisan producers of raw milk cheese find high compliance costs crippling - about $60 a kilo.
That makes European products cheaper to import and it's not fair, she says.
The Food and Safety Reform Bill is currently under consideration by a select committee.
"We want a level playing field," says Whalley.
She believes it's prohibitive to a thriving artisan cheese industry.
"If they took the same approach to road safety as they do to food safety, we would all have to drive at three miles per hour, with a person in front waving a red flag."
The hoops the artisan cheese makers have to jump through are the same as large producers.
"We are not underestimating the seriousness of our food safety regulations. We want to produce the best raw milk cheese in the world.
"We just seek sensible regulations."
Raw milk is milk that has not been pastuerized, which is treated with heat.
Pastuerisation destroys harmful pathogens and bacteria that can cause anything from diarrhoea, vomiting to listeria.
Particularly at risk are pregnant women, young children, elderly and the frail.
However, the same risks apply to soft-rind cheeses like camembert and brie and blue cheeses, pastuerised or not.
However, Whalley argues pastuerisation also destroys the milk's good bacteria which protects the cheese from harmful bacteria.
Small cheese makers have greater control over hygiene and other variables and can prevent it from happening, Whalley says.
Despite several requests for an interview, Food Safety Minister Jo Goodhew refused and responded in a statement.
"We need to appropriately manage the risks to public health and ensure New Zealand's food safety reputation.
"The safety of consumers is my priority, but of course this must be balanced with ensuring that businesses that manage their food safety well, are not unduly burdened by regulation."