Monday, 3 March 2008

Nanny knows best

A friend of mine from England once pointed out to me that Australia is not really welfare state, we're more a "Nanny state", with our Nanny taking control over what ever it can, and administering us like ignorant children. It would be more reassuring if our Government departments were perhaps apparently wiser and more consistent in the way it administers things. Even previous Governors in our colonial past have struggled with the administration of Australia. So as Easter approaches, all sorts of European goodies appear in the shops which are not found at home, I'm reminded of a situation from a few years ago, which sort of illustrates my point.

Here in "Sunny Suomi" (Suomi being the Finnish name for Finland) is an excellent chocolate company called Fazer (they Finns say it more like "Fatser"). Among their delicious selection is a lovely almond and hazelnut nougat egg called the Mignon egg.

These are sold only at Easter, so they are a special treat.

The nougat is rather like a more solid version of a well known spread at home called "Nutella".

Not only do they taste beautiful, but Fazer take the presentation to another level by pouring this delicious chocolate into a real egg shell, just like the traditional boile eggs we had as kids for easter only better as they're chocolate!

Because the chocolate is encased in a natural egg shell, you can then get the kids to decorate them with water colours, just the same way that you did when you were a kid yourself.

I thought they were so lovely I just had to send some to my family and friends in Australia.

But wait, at Easter instead of my family getting these eggs, they got a "seizure notice" from Customs ... apparently Nany says "no"! You see, Nanny says that these cute looking food items are in fact terrible vectors for the transmission of feared disease of bird flu to the fair and beautiful shores of Australia. Hard to see how the virus could have survived the cleaning process, but Nanny knows best.

As you'll see, because Nanny knows best she's carefully prepared a document about this, to lay clear to the regulations on importing food items here. This clearly outlines what you can and can't do with the import of items which are designated as "End use: Human consumption".

However the officer who works for Nanny seems to have thought that these chocolate eggs were not actually for human consumption, but were in fact to be designated "End use: All uses other than as animal foods, fertilisers or for growing purposes" (what a shame to waste the chocolate nougat). This meant that the food items must of course abide by different rules, they being those in this document here which covers decorations and non food items.

These rules I am told forbid the import of these cute Easter eggs. Before you go further, just scroll back up and look at that egg again, now lets have a look at the rules with the actual product in mind.

My gift came under the Non-Commercial rules, and I'll point out here that I've highlighted some parts in bold, and put my personal comments in italics within brackets [notes].
  1. An Import Permit is not required.[note how this assumes that my friends and family are in fact importing a gift sent to them by me without their knowledge]
  2. A Quarantine Entry is required for all consignments except those that are imported as non-commercial consignments by mail or those that are imported as personal consignments with passenger's accompanied baggage.[note: luckily its not required, but again my (and your) family are already supposed to importers of your surprise gifts]
  3. Professionally prepared undecorated and decorated blown eggs or egg shell ornaments/paintings may be imported without treatment, if a manufacturer’s declaration or similar documentary evidence states these products have been mechanically and chemically cleaned of all organic material. Egg shell ornaments may be painted or lacquered.[Note 1: while it is true that the shell of these easter eggs is a blown eggs, it is not actually a decoration and it remains silly to consider these items as other than "intended for consumption". Note 2: my chocolate easter eggs were supported with a document provided by Fazer chocolate company. But that did not satisfy Nanny, she's not easilly fooled by inferior EU food quality standards]
  4. All egg ornaments and paintings are subject to inspection on arrival. Blown eggs that appear not to have been professionally prepared, or where any cleaning process is unknown, cannot be imported unless treated bywashing the outside and inside of the shell with 2% sodium hypochlorite for a minimum of 10 minutes (T9372), 1% Virkon or 1% Virucidal X (T9431) or gamma irradiation at 50 kGray (T9652) [note 1: these are not egg ornaments, but food items. Note 2: the officer suggested that if my easter eggs were treated this way he was prepared to release them, but then of course, they would no longer be fit for human consumption as intended ... but wait ... why are we applying this regulation to Food items? Nanny knows best ...]

Despite assurances from the Fazer company with written certification that that these egg shells have been washed and sanitized fit for human consumption (Note we're dealing with a chocolate company and a food item? So why are we still arguing this interpretation of regulations? Nanny knows best...)

Nanny knows best, she rigorously stands guard protecting my beloved family and environment from nasty exotic diseases, you won't get anything past her (unless you're a major shipping line pumping your bilge into the harbor introducing God knows what, or a commercial importer bringing in containers of furniture containing South East Asia Asian Geckos, or a pet shop bringing in exotic pet fish that your clients are able discharge into river systems... the list goes on).

While I admire and respect my Nanny for this laudable goal, perhaps someone should point out to Nanny that there are several million migratory birds (such as the Arctic Tern) which move between Asia (the central location for the dissemination of this disease btw) every year, and don't bother to declare themselves at Customs. Perhaps they may serve as better vectors for the introduction of this disease than some chocolate eggs from Finland.

I find it extraordinarily frustrating to observe the application of rules by a bureaucracy which is making strange decisions about these tiny details, while we still bring in exotic fish, continue to plant exotic species of plants beside world heritage national parks (resulting in their infiltration into the area) and numerous other apparent double standards.

Anyway, probably the staff at Customs enjoyed 'safely disposing' of these tasty chocolate eggs (even if my friends didn't get the chance). Well, perhaps I'll send some fly swatters to help my family with the insects this summer instead.

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