QUESTION: OTR ban on re-usable coffee cups

During Question Time Mark asked the Minister for Health and Wellbeing about On The Run's decision to refuse to fill re-usable coffee cups that customers bring themselves.


The Hon. M.C. PARNELL: This morning's copy of TheAdvertiser refers to a decision made by the On The Run convenience store and petrol station chain that they will henceforth refuse to fill coffee cups that customers bring themselves. According to the article, more than 100 service stations and stores will be affected by the On The Run ban. The excuse offered by the company is one of food safety. To quote The Advertiser:

A spokesman for OTR said the decision 'has been made in the interests of our customers' health and wellbeing'.

I would point out that today is World Environment Day and the On The Run decision is completely at odds with what most other coffee retailers are now doing, which is encouraging people to bring their own cups and in fact giving them a discount if they bring their own cup rather than use a disposable cup. The Advertiser also points out, and I will accept it at face value, that Australians use one billion disposable coffee cups per year—one billion; one thousand million disposable coffee cups.

My questions of the minister on World Environment Day are:

1. Does the minister believe that re-usable coffee cups pose such a risk to health and safety that they should be banned?

2. If not, what steps will he take as Minister for Health and Wellbeing to either urge or force On The Run to reverse this anti-environment policy?

The Hon. S.G. WADE (Minister for Health and Wellbeing): I thank the honourable member for his question. I would make the point that individual businesses have a responsibility to manage food safety within their businesses. I tend to agree with the honourable member that perhaps this particular business is taking an overzealous approach, but the legislative duty of my department is to make sure that food businesses meet minimum standards, not that they exceed them.

I am sure that individual businesses will need to make business decisions as to whether insisting on people using their own cups rather than perhaps getting a discount for a re-usable cup is in their business model or not, but I certainly don't think that I should, as Minister for Health, be legislating for the maximum food safety risk.

I do take the implicit point in the member's question, which is that we should not take a narrow view of health. I certainly appreciate that the environment in which we live is a major factor in our health. I don't want to be held to this, but it is my recollection that one of the most significant reductions in mortality in the life of the colony of South Australia, now the state, was through the introduction of reticulated water and sanitation. A public health measure, an environmental measure, if you like, had a dramatic impact on health services.

This government takes very seriously the issue of public health. That's why we are re-establishing the position of chief public health officer. I accept the member's point that the efforts that this state makes in terms of managing the environment, which is directly the responsibility of minister Speirs in the other place, will also have real benefits for the health of South Australians.