THE recent discovery of false meat labelling in Korea would not damage the Australian beef industry, according to ating Federal Agriculture Minister Ian McFarlane.
His statement was in response to shadow Agriculture Minister Gavan O'Connor's recent claim that the agriculture minister had not been doing his job properly after an audit of South Korean retailers found 80 cases of false labelling.
In seven cases, product on the Korean retailers' shelves were falsely advertised as coming from Australia.
Mr O'Connor drew attention to a previous incident in 2002 when 233 tonnes of meat of unknown origin ended up in South Asian, Taiwan and Eastern European countries with forged Australian health certificates.
"This is not the first time the agriculture minister has failed to do his job properly and protect the interests of Australian farmers," he said.
He said that despite government assurances at the time that there would be a move to electronic certification, the problem was back again, and Australia's hard won reputation as an exporter of high quality product was now at risk.
Mr McFarlane said it was wrong for Mr O'Connor to accuse the Government of not protecting farmers' interests.
He said new documentation with a new high-tech individually numbered paper ‹ which when copied shows up the word "copy" ‹ did provide protection against forging or unauthorised tampering with official Government documentation.
Mr McFarlane said to further strengthen security of certification, the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service, with the New Zealand Food Safety Authority, had developed a new electronic certification system known as E-cert.
"E-cert is a secure web site that gives importing authorities the ability to view and process certificates in real time," he said.
"Pilots of the new E-cert system will begin with meat exports to Singapore and Canada in March this year."
He said E-cert would eventually replace most of the current paper certificates, giving Australia one of the most modern and secure certification systems in the world.