Unsuspecting Aussies could be decorating their homes or wedding and birthday cakes with flowers dipped in toxic chemicals, industry insiders have warned. Flowers are currently the only perishable product sold in Australia that does not require 'Country of Origin' labelling, a potentially dangerous loophole that could exposure consumers to serious health issues.
The flower industry's leading body is ramping up calls for 'Country of Origin' labelling with Australians unknowingly buying native flowers, such as Kangaroo Paw, that have been grown overseas and dipped in toxic chemicals for up to 20 minutes before sale.
Flower Industry Australia is lobbying the federal government on behalf of the $600 million-a year-industry and consumers to introduce labelling that will help buyers identify locally-grown flowers when they shop. "When you sniff a bunch of roses in the supermarket, you might be sniffing chemicals," says FIA director and flower grower Michael van der Zwet.
"Everything you buy from a supermarket has to have a label - except for cut flowers."
The industry is concerned most consumers are not aware of the potential dangers of buying flowers grown overseas, and that the requested labelling changes will not be passed without more concerted public pressure. Overseas flower imports ramped up in 2012, driven by demand from supermarket chains.
In the 2019-2020 financial year, Australia imported $74.2 million worth of cut flowers from countries including Kenya, Colombia, Ecuador, China and Malaysia, according to Horticulture Australia. "Local growers couldn't compete," says NSW Flower Growers group secretary Sal Russo of the rise of imports.
"We had 300 rose growers in Australia, now it's down to about 30 and that's a result of cheap imports being brought into Australia."
COVID has brought the crisis within the flower industry to a head, with increased freight costs due to a lack of international flights contributing to a drop in imports and creating flower shortages which the decimated local industry is working hard to meet.
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