Food products sold in Australia are required to follow labelling standards set out in the Food Standards Code.
Statements about where food has been made or grown are found on product labels, packaging or in advertising. Common claims include ‘product of’, ‘grown in’ and ‘made in’.
Any claim or impression that is made about the country of origin must be accurate and not misleading or deceptive.
Manufacturers in Australia use a generic statement “Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients”, this statement generates the most confusion among shoppers. There is a lot of leeway in the above statement and many companies tend to exploit this to their advantage.
In light of the recent hepatitis A scare, momentum for better labels has got real good traction in last few weeks.
This week, the Australian government announced that “better” country of origin labelling rules would be introduced. Mr Joyce said reform of labelling rules was long overdue. “Country of origin labelling should be simple, compulsory, diagrammatical and show proportionality as to where the product is sourced from,” he said. Australian consumers wanted a system that allowed them to pick up a product, read the label and know “whether or not that product is grown in Australia, processed in Australia, what percentage of the contents are from here in Australia”. The new system is likely to involve a compulsory symbol and a printed set of words or description.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott says changes to country of origin food labelling will be as “business-friendly” as possible.
The Prime Minister has asked two ministers, Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane and Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, to present a reform proposal to Cabinet by the end of March. Hopefully, the things will improve in the future and will bring more transparency and clarity.