Made in Australia?

Which labels can you trust and which are just marketing hype?
 
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01 .Country of origin claims

AustralianMade_lead
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.

False claims

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”.

“Australian Owned”

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.

 
 

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Confused?

While ownership isn’t regulated under COO laws, part of the problem is that the law broadly covers all consumer products. Current legislation governing use of the “Made in Australia” claim refers to a process, whereas qualified claims usually refers to ingredients or components. This can be confusing when it comes to food.

CHOICE member Roslyn Gibson sent us a sample of the Big Sister Glacé Cherries packaging that she found confusing. The front of the packaging bears the outline of Australia with the statement, “Australian Made and Owned”. At the back, however, it says the product is “Made in Australia from imported and local products”. Big Sister Foods confirmed to CHOICE that the company is Australian-owned. “The statements are all true and not at all contradictory,” says CEO John Roy. “The cherries are imported but are substantially transformed here in the glacé process so it qualifies for Australian-made.”

AUSTRALIAN MADE, AUSTRALIAN GROWN (AMAG)

AustralianMade AMAG-tagsThis logo was launched by the Hawke government in 1986 and is a registered trademark approved by the Department of Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, IP Australia and the ACCC. AMAG’s emphasis is on products being made here.

Logo use It can only be used on products that are actually made or grown in Australia (and cannot be used on services). About 1700 businesses are licensed to use the logo on more than 10,000 products, which can be found on its website’s searchable directory.
Governance AMAG is a not-for-profit organisation but provides annual reports to the government. It also works closely with the Australian Trade Commission (Austrade) to promote locally made products overseas.
Application process Representatives of a company must complete an application form, sign a statutory declaration that their products comply with the legislation and describe how it does so, and agree to be bound by a code of practice. An AMAG representative will often visit the business to ensure entries are accurate before the business submits the form. Companies pay an annual fee to use the logo.
Compliance/audit process AMAG conducts annual random sampling of one per cent of licensees for on-site independent auditing. If the auditor or ACCC discover products do not meet the criteria,the company’s licence is cancelled.

AUSBUY

AustralianMade AUSBUY logoLaunched in 1991 by the Australian Companies Institute (ACI), Ausbuy’s main emphasis is on ownership. “Ownership means that we keep the decisions, profits and jobs here and that has a multiplier effect on our economy,” says CEO Lynne Wilkinson. Both AMAG and Ausbuy endorse local producers and manufacturers.

Logo use  Majority (more than 51%) Australian-owned companies that source and produce here can use the Ausbuy logo. Franchises with no marketing input from foreign parents can join provided they source, produce and supply within Australia. The companies and brands licensed to use its logo, along with other Australian-owned and foreign-owned companies, are listed in the Ausbuy Guide, which is available for $2.95 at most supermarkets.
Governance AUSBUY is run by the ACI, a not-for-profit organisation.
Application process Representatives of a company must undergo a review, complete an application form and agree to abide by Ausbuy’s strict rules governing the use of its certification marks. Companies pay an annual fee to use the logo to use the logo.
Compliance/audit process Ownership of businesses using the Ausbuy logo is reviewed by the ACI. There is no formal compliance process. “The integrity of our members is such that if one of their products is majority sourced offshore even it is made here, they do not use our logo,” says Wilkinson. “We also have a wide network of Friends of Ausbuy across Australia who are our advocates and undertake surveys of products and prices for us.”

Local support

Businesses that promote Australian-made and/or Australian-owned products include Only Oz, an online grocery business that stocks and delivers only Australian goods to your home anywhere in Australia via courier (or via airmail to anywhere else in the world). Their shopping catalogue tells you exactly what is Australian-made and/or owned. There’s also FightBack for Australia, an online and print publication that lists locally made and owned brands and products stocked by its sponsor, IGA. They promise to “expose the dominance of Coles and Woolworths” in the daily lives of everyday Australians and the negative effects of fewer Australian-owned and made products on our economy. The website has a searchable database of goods that producers and shoppers can update.


Country of origin table

In May, CHOICE made the following recommendations to the Food Labelling Law and Policy Review regarding provenance claims on food labels:
  • Mandatory food labelling requirements, including COO labelling, should be set out in the Food Standards Code so manufacturers clearly know what information they are required to present and how it should be presented, as well as how these requirements are to be interpreted.
  • The Food Standards Code should be amended to prohibit unqualified “made in” claims and require manufacturers to disclose the origin of each significant or characterising ingredients, or highlight that these ingredients have been imported – for example, “Made in Australia from Canadian pork”.
  • A centralised Commonwealth enforcement agency with powers to improve accuracy and consistency of all food labelling.

Although the ACCC can take action where it believes COO food labels breach the “misleading and deceptive” provisions of the Trade Practices Act, the provisions do not meet shoppers’ expectations about COO information for the food they buy.

  • The provisions are not mandatory for all foods (such as chicken, beef and mixed meat).
  • Neither federal law nor the Food Standards Code require manufacturers to tell shoppers where key ingredients come from.
  • There are inconsistencies in penalties for non-compliance. It all depends on whether misleading and deceptive conduct is being enforced under the state food acts or the federal Trade Practices Act.

The Made in Australia myth

These are some of the qualified claims you’ll frequently find on product labels. In the ACCC’s view, they are allowed so that businesses that are unable to satisfy all the criteria for a “Made in Australia” claim, provided the qualification provides more complete information to consumers.

Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients usually means the product was processed in Australia and there is more locally sourced ingredients than imported ones.

  • Kirks Originals soft drinks – the drinks are manufactured locally and majority of the juice concentrate was sourced in Australia.

Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients usually means the product was processed in Australia – although the majority of the ingredients are imported.

  • Extra Juicy fruit juices. TV ads promote this juice as “100% Australia owned”, yet while the juice manufacturer is Australian-owned, the “Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients” statement means the juice is processed here but the imported content is more than the local content.

Designed in Australia, made in China means the product was designed locally but manufactured in China.

  • Bonds raglan T-shirts.
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