Tourists flock to her [Biddie Fraser-Davies] 4.4-hectare farm 20 minutes north of Masterton to enjoy a unique, gate-to-plate culinary and farming experience. Each of her cheeses bears the name of the jersey cow whose milk was used to make it.The regime, as I understand it, scales rigour to risk so that lower risk products have fairly small compliance costs. But high fixed costs on things like cheese risks killing off small producers.
But earlier this month a letter from a ministry food safety official told her she had until November 1 to get a $3680 risk management audit, or be forced to close.That sum amounts to about a ninth of her annual turnover from a business that produces less than a tonne of cheese a year and earns her about $33,000....Her problems began with an appearance on TV's Country Calendar in 2009, after which government food safety inspectors visited. She said they found her hygiene and equipment were faultless, but still told her she would be closed down unless she developed an approved risk management plan and swallowed a big rise in her compliance costs.
Recall that, in 2012, then-Minister Kate Wilkinson said:
The cheese that's produced from three cows or three thousand cows is still expected to be safe. ... We want the Biddies [cheese-maker Biddy Fraser-Davies] of this world to keep producing fantastic cheeses, but we also want that cheese to be safe.Why shouldn't Biddie Fraser-Davies be able to put a big sign up outside her shop saying that her cheese is produced without an approved risk management plan and that caveat emptor applies? Who's the we in Wilkinson's statement? If it's the people buying the cheese, they should be able to judge for themselves. If it's people who don't buy the cheese, why do they get a say?
I can understand worries about industry-reputation effects if there's botulism or something in one small producer's batch. But are those effects likely to be substantial where things are sold with an explicit caveat emptor sticker?
UPDATE: I had wrongly assumed that Biddie was being chased under the new Food Act. The Food Act, passed in the last Parliament, was meant to stop some of this nonsense for small-scale operators. But Donald, in comments, usefully notes that she's being chased under the old Food Act as the new 2014 Food Act doesn't come into force for some time yet. And so there is no particular inconsistency between the former Minister's having said she wanted Biddie to be able to continue making cheese under the new Act, and that she's currently being chased. It's a bit odd that none of the officials quoted pointed to the forthcoming changes that might ease things up for those in her situation.