Proposal to tighten regulations on sale of kava in Aotearoa

by | Jan 18, 2022 | News

A proposal in Australia to tighten rules around kava could extend to New Zealand, frustrating kava advocates in Aotearoa who have accused the Australian authorities of taking a negative and restrictive view of the popular Pacific drink.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) has sought submissions on proposed changes to the food standard regulating kava use in New Zealand and Australia.

Australia has traditionally maintained stricter controls on Kava than New Zealand but relaxed importation rules in 2019 to permit individuals to bring up to 4kg in their luggage when entering the country.

Australia is planning to allow commercial importation and proposing changes to restrict its sale, which would effectively ban takeaway kava and regulate how it is prepared.

“We need to remember that not all Pacific people are the same,” said Dr Apo Aporosa from the University of Waikato.

“For instance, niVanuatu have different cultural practices to Fijians, and Fijians different practices to Samoans. This equally applies to the kava culture. So what is traditional in one place may not be reflected the same in another.”

The proposed ban on takeaway kava may affect the small number of outlets where it is available in New Zealand.

‘Anau and Todd Henry of Four Shells Kava in Auckland point out that kava culture differs across the Pacific and has changed over time.

Aporosa said that he travelled to Australia last June and presented the latest research on the health effects of kava to a group that included senior health officials in order to counteract “a number of misunderstandings and misinformation” being relied on by Australian authorities.

He questioned why members of the Pacific community did not run the process and refuted that kava was addictive and impaired liver function.

Aporosa said the mixing by hand and communal nature of the kava experience is often viewed by non-Pacific people as primitive and undeveloped compared to packaged alcohol, despite the deleterious effect of alcohol on society.

A 2019 study from Australia, which ranked the harm caused by 22 commonly-used substances, awarded kava three “harm points” but awarded alcohol 77 points – the highest of any substance.

New Zealand Food Safety has not confirmed if the changes will be implemented in New Zealand.

‘Anau and Todd Henry at Four Shells said said the change could have “long-term negative effects” on kava drinkers and were concerned that Australia could influence New Zealand laws regarding cultural practices like kava drinking

Original story published on NZ Herald.

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Peter Wright

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