01.Country of origin claims
Many Aussie shoppers feel strongly about supporting home-grown businesses and local farmers. Shoppers are also concerned about food quality and safety and want to know where products originate - but sometimes can't tell.
In a recent CHOICE election survey we invited our online visitors to tell us what consumer issues they think matter most. 24% nominated clearer food nutirition and country of origin labelling. But are we always told the truth?
The definition of “Made in Australia” and other claims, mixed with the marketing hype, are confusing shoppers. We unpick the labels and fine print so that you can trust the product you buy.
Untangling the definitions
- “Product of Australia” means all the significant ingredients must originate here, and almost all the manufacturing or processing must be done in Australia.
- “Made in Australia”, “Australian Made” and “Manufactured in Australia” claims mean the product must be substantially “transformed” in Australia – it must have undergone a fundamental change in form, appearance or nature, such that the product existing after the change is new and different from the product beforehand – with at least 50% of production costs incurred here.
- All these claims come under the Trade Practices Act. Where you see these claims on products, the manufacturer must meet the COO test requirements of the legislation.
The ACCC can take any company to court for using claims found to be untrue. It doesn’t matter if the exact words “Made in Australia” are not used – the COO test applies so long as shoppers receive the overall impression that the product was made here.
The Australian Bush Hat Company had attached tags that included the statement “Manufactured in Australia from quality imported and local products” and a map of Australia, even though the hats were actually made in India. The company was forced to take out corrective newspaper ads and recall all its products.
Where a claim is made on food, a state or territory food authority can take action as accurate COO labelling for some foods is mandatory under the Food Standards Code. In June, the NSW Food Authority took Primo, one of Australia’s largest meat manufacturers, to court for passing off bacon from Canada and Denmark as “Product of Australia” and “100% Australian meat content”.
This meaning of this claim doesn't come under current labelling laws, although there are guidelines in place for it's use. According to the ACCC the claim does not relate to COO, but rather that the company has majority Australian ownership.
Companies creating the impression that a product is being manufactured or produced in Australia when it wasn’t actually made here may be deemed to be breaking the law. The ACCC says:
- A company claiming to be “Australian Owned” must prove that at least 51% of its ownership is held in Australia –
- Full local ownership is required if it claims to be “100% Australian owned”.
Until the ACCC took action in February, Golden Circle was claiming to be “proudly Australian owned” for as long as one year after it was sold to foreign-owned Heinz.