The Auckland importers of food products who failed to translate food allergen declarations into English have been fined $28,000.
In the Auckland District Court, Tokyo Food Company Limited was sentenced on two charges under the Food Act, which it pleaded guilty to, and Japan Mart 2014 Company Limited was sentenced on one charge under the Food Act, it pleaded guilty to, following a successful prosecution by New Zealand Food Safety compliance investigators.
Tokyo Food Company Limited was fined $21,000, and Japan Mart 2014 Company Limited was fined $7,000.
"Tokyo Food Company Limited and Japan Mart 2014 Company Limited are New Zealand registered companies, and we'd expect them to have known they needed to declare on the labelling that the product contained soy sauce or fish products in English so that people who suffer from allergies are aware," said New Zealand Food Safety deputy director general Vincent Arbuckle.
Through studying records, food safety compliance officers found that between the 9th of January 2020 and the 26th of October 2021, Tokyo Food imported and sold Seasoned Seaweed Salad, also known as Goma Wakame, to a range of well-known supermarket businesses. The labels supplied with their 1kg and 300g packages did not comply with the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code because they did not declare the allergen soy present. Between the 21st and 26th of October, two consumer recalls of the product were done. In total, 32,796 1kg packages of Seasoned Seaweed Salad were sold, and 7,752 packages of 300g Nobu brand Seasoned Seaweed Salad were sold.
The other company, Japan Mart 2014 Company Limited, imported and sold 96 bags of the Calbee brand of potato chips between the 2nd of February and the 14th of June 2021. A public member made a complaint after purchasing a bag and noting the ingredients list in Japanese included scallops and bonito fish. However, it was not translated into English on the label.
"Our responsibility is to consumers and their safety. People should expect to feel confident that all imported food is subject to consistently high safety standards and is fit for purpose. When we find evidence of non-compliance, such as not declaring ingredients that could potentially affect consumers' health, we will take action, including removing products from shelves and, in serious cases, placing the offending before the Courts."
Arbuckle continued that in August 2023, New Zealand Food Safety strengthened the requirements for all New Zealand food importers. The changes clarified the role and responsibilities of food importers when they bring food into New Zealand to ensure that it is safe and suitable for Kiwi consumers. We encourage all registered food importers to go and check the Ministry for Primary Industries website to ensure they follow the updated rules.
The updated requirements are in the Requirements for Registered Food Importers and Imported Food for Sale.