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Food safety partnership to protect $50b industry

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce and Food Safety Minister Jo Goodhew at the launch of the New Zealand Food Safety Science and Research Centre at Massey University.

A scientific collaboration aimed at protecting and enhancing New Zealand's $50 billion-plus food sector was officially launched today.

The New Zealand Food Safety Science and Research Centre joins seven science research partners to form a virtual research centre, which will be jointly funded by the Government and industry over the next five years.

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce and Food Safety Minister Jo Goodhew launched the centre at the Manawatū campus of Massey University, alongside the funding partners, the Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand, the Meat Industry Association and Zespri.

The centre’s role is to promote, co-ordinate, and deliver food safety science and research for all of New Zealand, where, according to the Investors Guide to the New Zealand Food and Beverage Industry report issued in November, the top 100 food and beverage firms collectively generate annual revenue of $51 billion.

The science research collaborators are crown research institutes AgResearch, Environmental Science and Research, Plant and Food Research, as well as the private scientific research organisation the Cawthron Institute, and three universities –­ the University of Auckland, the University of Otago and Massey, the host institution.

The centre's board will be independently chaired by biotechnologist and chemical engineer Dr Kevin Marshall, who also chairs the Riddet Institute, a national centre of research excellence based around food science.

"The centre is an important collaboration between Government, industry and researchers right across the value chain," Dr Marshall says. "It will help to protect and enhance the reputation of food produced by New Zealand, maintain and enhance its exports, increase collective market access and protect public health.”

Funding for the centre will total $4.1 million per annum, with the Government committing $2.05 million per annum and industry matching that.

Dairy Companies Association chairman Malcolm Bailey says the investment shows a clear commitment to maintaining New Zealand’s global reputation for the best food safety outcomes. “Our investment is aimed at future-proofing New Zealand’s reputation for safe food through greater co-ordination, and a stronger linkage to the world’s leading science and research.”

Meat Industry Association chief executive Tim Ritchie says, “New Zealand’s global reputation for strong food safety outcomes is critically important to the success of the red meat sector. The meat industry already invests in science and research to support and protect this reputation and this collaboration is another example of the industry’s absolute commitment to food safety.” 

Zespri general manager for innovation Carol Ward says, “this is an important and vital research partnership that will support businesses like Zespri where the focus is on providing the highest quality kiwifruit to consumers around the world. Our success is underpinned by trust in the safety of our produce and high quality research will help New Zealand food producers to continue to lead the way in food safety.”

Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment chief executive David Smol says the partnership will bring the best minds and institutions together. “New Zealand’s food exports are dependent on an internationally credible food safety system, which must be underpinned by the best available science," Mr Smol says. "The work to be done at the centre will be a huge help in meeting our export growth targets."

Ministry for Primary Industries director-general Martyn Dunne says the research centre will contribute to ensuring the food safety of consumers in New Zealand and around the world. “The research from the centre will focus on minimising risks of foodborne illnesses by looking at short-term issues as well as pre-empting future food safety risks across all sectors to ensure that consumers can continue to have confidence that their food is safe.”

Centre establishment director Professor Nigel French, from Massey, says the centre will help to continue to build New Zealand's reputation as a global leader in the supply of safe food "by delivering world-class strategic scientific research driven by the needs of government, consumers and industry”.

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