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US denies Vegemite ban

From correspondents in Los Angeles

October 25, 2006 06:11am

Article from: AAP

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AUSTRALIANS travelling to the US can breathe easy. So can the 100,000 or so Australian expatriates living in America.

The US government today dismissed media reports it had banned Vegemite.

"There is no ban on Vegemite," US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) spokesman Mike Herndon said.

Media reports at the weekend claimed American border officials were confiscating Vegemite from Australians as they entered the US.

The FDA, charged with policing America's food supply, has not issued an "import alert" to border officials to halt the import of Vegemite.

Mr Herndon said the FDA was surprised by the media reports.

The controversy centres on folate, an ingredient in Vegemite.

Under US regulations, folate can be added only to breads and cereals.

"One of the Vitamin B components (in Vegemite) is folate," Mr Herndon said.

"In and of itself, it's not a violation. If they're adding folate to it, boosting it up, technically it would be a violation.

"But the FDA has not targeted it and I don't think we intend to target Vegemite simply because of that."

Joanna Scott, spokesperson for Vegemite's maker, Kraft, reportedly has said, "The Food and Drug Administration doesn't allow the import of Vegemite simply because the recipe does have the addition of folic acid".

But Mr Herndon said, "Nobody at the FDA has told them (Kraft) there is a ban".

To eradicate any grey areas or potential regulation breaches, Mr Herndon said, Kraft could petition the FDA, something other food manufacturers have done.

While many Aussies living in the US rely on visiting Australian relatives and friends to bring them a jar or two of Vegemite from Australia, the product is available in some US supermarkets.

The price slapped on Vegemite, however, is tough to swallow.

A tiny, four ounce jar of Vegemite sells for around $US4.80 ($6.33) in US supermarkets.

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