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04.CHOICE on country of origin labelling

Of products made in Australia, it’s not always easy to determine exactly where the ingredients came from. A large proportion of the products we surveyed that were made in Australia included ingredients of unidentified origin.

Of our sample of 100 market leader products, 42% specified they were packaged locally with some or all ingredients from overseas. Of the Coles products, 63% were labelled as packaged in Australia from a combination of local and/or imported ingredients, while 71% of Woolies products were labelled as packed locally but including ingredients of overseas origin.

So what does the term “made in Australia” even mean? Right now, in order to use these words, the product must have undergone substantial transformation and 50% of processing costs here. Labels such as “packed in Australia from an imported ingredient” don’t really explain much at all, except that an ingredient from a mystery country was repackaged in an Australian factory.

 

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“‘Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients’ doesn’t quite give you the whole story,” says Churchill. CHOICE agrees this grey area needs tightening.

In July, Australian Greens leader Christine Milne announced the Accurate Country of Origin Labelling for Food Bill in an attempt to protect both Australian consumers and farmers from this type of misleading labelling. Milne argues the bill provides clear food-specific country-of-origin labelling to allow customers to better understand where the produce they buy comes from and ensure a fair and transparent market for local growers.

What CHOICE wants

CHOICE knows that country of origin (CoO) labelling is one of the biggest consumer frustrations when it comes to food labelling. We’ve long called on governments around the country to clear up with confusion caused by the multitude of different terms currently used on packaging.

In our July 2011 members’survey, close to 90% of more than 300 respondents said it was important to know the origin of the food they eat, with two-thirds rating it as very important.

Do you look for country of origin labellng on any foods in particular? Do you find it difficult to make informed purchases? And which terms are most confusing or unhelpful – “made in Australia from local and imported ingredients” or “packaged in Australia”? We‘d like to hear your thoughts – please email us at investigation@choice.com.au.

 
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