Mayor says if you want safe food, grow it in Lockyer Valley
IT IS time for the farmers of the Lockyer Valley to feed the nation rather than risk more food poisoning from inferior imports.
That is the word from Lockyer Valley Mayor Steve Jones, who for years has been alarmed by the importation of foreign food at the expense of local farmers.
Cr Jones pointed out that in recent weeks 20 people had been struck down with Hepatitis A linked to frozen berries from China, four people suffered Scombroid food poisoning after eating contaminated tuna from Thailand and now a link has been made to the deadly superbug Clostridium Difficile from onions imported from the United States.
"Onions were one of our biggest crops, but I have been into supermarkets and seen them from California and Holland," he said. "We produce a big number of onions in the Lockyer, but in the United States they are heavily subsidised to grow them.
"The big companies here buy them cheaper in the States.
"The Lockyer council here has buried hundreds of tons of onions simply because they were not what the market wanted.
"They say they are the wrong shape or the wrong colour, but they are good onions.
"If you want to control the system and you are in the retail side of it, you simply have to say that an onion is too big for your customers.
"Then all of a sudden you can eliminate all the punters in the game."
The Lockyer Valley produces some of the best onions in the world, so Cr Jones questioned why the government was allowing inferior product from the United States to enter our shores.
One Sydney newspaper revealed an onion farmer from NSW was forced to dump 1400 tonnes due to the oversupply of imported product.
Cr Jones said it was all very well for politicians to talk about the need for the right labelling, but the real issue was elsewhere.
"Labelling is only a small part of the issue. You've got to have good quality Australian food available first," he said.
"Irrespective of who you blame, the big boys in town want things at the cheapest price.
"They prefer to deal with an overseas importer where they are buying a thousand ton of stuff, and buying it for next to nothing, rather than deal with our domestic system.
"We have been saying for years that stuff coming from overseas is s***, whereas the food we are producing here is done so under really high standards.
"If you want safe food, the only real solution is to grow it here. We need the Australian produce on the shelves."
Cr Jones said quality control was simply not up to scratch with overseas imports, as recent developments with the tuna, berries and onions had proven.
He conducted his own survey in a local supermarket last week and was stunned to find that "90 % of every vegetable in a can, frozen or in plastic comes from overseas".
Cr Jones said the Lockyer produced a wide variety of vegetables that used to be canned in the region and sold in Australia. He said 90% of the nation's beetroots were once supplied by the Lockyer but now many were coming from overseas.
He said his own discussions with locals suggested they want to buy Australian produce.
"But I think it is essential that Australian products are put separately on shelves, because when you walk into a supermarket people are busy. They want to buy Australian but the labelling can be very difficult to read," Cr Jones said.