Our story yesterday on imported Coca-Cola from Vietnam was enlightening. And not in a good way.
The Coke, sold at the Warehouse, apparently meets New Zealand's food labelling requirements.
This despite the label on the bottle saying it is "exclusively for sale in Vietnam. Exports are not authorised". The way around this is to put a sticker on the plastic-wrapped pack of 24, outlining who the importer is and giving the list of ingredients. In English. Even if the ingredients on the bottle itself are written in Vietnamese.
Such is the beauty of parallel importing, with the benefit to the consumer being price.
But this raises a bigger question.
Just because the labelling in a roundabout way meets our laws, does the food itself meet our standards?
And the answer is . . . who knows?
There is a book "thicker than the Bible" on New Zealand and Australian food safety standards, but testing whether individual foods meet this seems to be haphazard. Especially in relation to imported food, which just happens to be the food people would like to see tested most.
Take the Coke. Responsibility for its safety is on the importer. But I can't imagine the Warehouse randomly testing batches of the product. It doesn't have to. And no one else is going to either.
So who are we trusting here? The Vietnamese? Who might be entirely trustworthy, but they'll have different standards. New Zealanders travelling in such countries are advised not to drink the local water, yet that same water might be in the Coke they drink at home.
Most consumers would assume what's on the shelf in front of them had been tested by someone somewhere, and the reason they read the label is to identify items they may be allergic to.
To learn that the safety test is whether you end up over the toilet bowl or in hospital would be enlightening to most people. And not in a good way.
Another thing: Lance Armstrong knew exactly what he was putting into his body, and the story is astounding on so many levels.
Astounding that he thought he could get away with it, astounding that he could lie so convincingly about being drug-free, astounding that others didn't speak out, astounding that cycling didn't catch him at the time.
The damage to professional cycling in immense. If seven-time Tour de France winner squeaky-clean Lance was out-and-out cheating, we can only imagine they all are. And concluding that, why bother watching?
- © Fairfax NZ News