Greens plan to reform food origin labelling

Australian Greens propose sweeping changes to country of origin labelling rules for food products.
 
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01.Focus on ingredients

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The Leader of the Australian Greens, Christine Milne, has announced a new bill that would do away with the ‘Made in Australia’ claim for foods processed in Australia. 

The Greens’ proposed labelling focuses on the origin of ingredients.

Under the Greens’ proposal, food manufacturers would have to meet strict criteria in order to say a product is ‘Grown in Australia’ or ‘Made from Australian ingredients’.

The Greens would abolish the ‘Product of Australia’ claim as they believe it should be confined to non-food products. They would also prohibit the use of ‘Made in Australia’ as it does not include information about the origin of the ingredients, only the manufacturing.

They would retain ‘Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients’ and ‘Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients’, even though these water down the stricter requirements for the ‘Made in Australia’ claim while providing no certainty about the proportion of Australian ingredients.

Originating debate

The Greens admit that country of origin labelling for processed foods is a complex area and they are looking for input on clear terminology. Their willingness to tackle this difficult issue is a welcome change from the apathy shown by food and health ministers.

Although ministers recognised country of origin confusion in their response to the review of food labelling in December 2011, their response was that a consumer education campaign could be considered. And while consumer ministers have since suggested they would discuss the issue, we have yet to see any action.

What CHOICE wants

While CHOICE welcomes the Greens efforts to address this issue, we are concerned that removing ‘Made in Australia’ may leave many consumers without information they find important. Our May 2011 country of origin survey showed the majority of respondents found it important to be able to identify foods manufactured in Australia.

The ‘Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients’ claim is also of concern. Although this claim was reasonably well understood by respondents to our May 2011 survey, it fared poorly in our Australia Day quiz this year.

CHOICE has long called for improvements to country of origin labelling and we hope the bill will rekindle debate over the issue and, ultimately, lead to action to clear up the confusion.

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