Country of origin labels cleaned up

Consumer advocacy group Choice has welcomed the release of the Federal Government’s new country of origin food labelling scheme, along with funding for consumer regulator, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), to make sure companies implement labels correctly.

“The Federal Government has taken a big step towards ending the confusion around country of origin labelling, especially for consumers who want to know how much of a product was manufactured or grown locally,” says Choice spokesperson Tom Godfrey.

“They’ve backed up this new scheme with $4.2 million in additional funding for the ACCC over the next five years, making sure that the system will work as intended.”

Under the new food labelling system announced on 31 March, products will be required to include a kangaroo in a triangle logo if the food is made, produced, or grown in Australia. It will also include a bar chart indicating the proportion of Australian ingredients.

However, the kangaroo logo and bar chart will only apply to “priority foods”. Consumers won’t see new country of origin labels on non-priority foods such as biscuit and snack foods, bottled water, tea, coffee and alcoholic beverages.

“Unfortunately, the new system looks less useful for consumers wanting information about any of the 195 countries that are not Australia. For example, claims such as ‘Made in Australia from imported ingredients’ will still have you wondering where your food comes from,” Tom says.

While the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science’s factsheet encourages food manufacturers to call out the origin of specific ingredients on their label, there is no mandatory requirement for manufacturers to do this. It means that many consumers will be in the dark as to the origin of overseas ingredients.

“Unfortunately the new system leaves it up to the manufacturers to voluntarily declare the origin of a product’s main ingredient,” Tom says. “We urge food manufacturers to be more transparent about the origin of their ingredients and take on board the option to list the main ingredients of their products.”

Consumers wanting to buy Australian produce will need to look for the ‘Grown in Australia’ logo or the ‘Made in Australia from 100 per cent Australian ingredients’ logo.

“This is an improvement on the current situation, where so-called qualified claims like ‘Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients’ leave shoppers confused,” Tom says.

Consumers can expect to see new labels appear in retail outlets later this year.

For more information on the new labelling scheme check here.

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