Made in where...?
Country of origin labels baffle consumers
According to a CHOICE survey, 99% of respondents do not have a good understanding of what the 'Made in Australia' label means. This is despite two thirds saying it is very important to them to be able to identify where products are produced or made.
Almost half of those surveyed said they want to buy Australian products when they are available.
In the CHOICE survey 900 members were asked to explain, in their own words, their understanding of the different country of origin labels: 'Made in Australia', 'Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients', 'Product of Australia' and 'Australian Grown'.
CHOICE compared the responses against the official definitions as outlined by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and the Australia Made, Australian Grown (AMAG) campaign. FSANZ oversees the use of the various labels, except for Australian Grown, which is managed by AMAG.
The best understood country of origin label is 'Made in Australian from local and imported ingredients'. Sixty-eight percent of people surveyed had an accurate understanding of what the label means.
However, 85% said they would like to know, at the very least, the origin of the ingredient that characterises the product, with more than a third saying they would prefer this label go further and disclose the specific origin of each of the items in the product.
"Our members tell us time and time again that they want clearer, more informative country of origin labels that detail specifically where the main ingredient comes from. In their current form, the country of origin labels are just too confusing," says CHOICE spokesperson Ingrid Just.
"Shoppers want to support local producers by buying foods grown and produced here but in many instances the labels are not helping them do that."
In its submission to the independent Labelling Review Panel, one of CHOICE's seven demands was for country of origin food labels to be extended to more products and for a single regulator to be established to enforce food labelling standards.
In January this year, the panel recommended extending country of origin labelling to all primary foods such as beef, poultry and pork.
It suggested that the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) develop a consumer information standard specifically relating to food, with clearer requirements for products with Australian ingredients.
CHOICE is calling on the government to meet the demands of consumers and accept the Food Labelling Review Panel's recommendations.
"The government has said it will respond to Labelling Review Panel’s recommendations by the end of 2011 so the clock is ticking. We have an opportunity right now to create informative and easy to understand labels that help people buy Australian products. It would be an incredible blow to consumers, local producers and businesses if that opportunity was wasted," says Ms Just.
For more information on country of origin food labelling definitions and for more details about the CHOICE survey into food labelling go to www.choice.com.au/countryoforigin. To read CHOICE's submission to the Food Labelling Review go to www.choice.com.au./foodlabellingreview.
- Ingrid Just, CHOICE, Head of Media and Spokesperson: 0430 172 669