27 March 2013
CHOICE has welcomed recommendations that the government develop a more effective approach to country of origin labelling after an inquiry found that consumers were confused by the current approach.
The Senate Rural and Regional Affairs and Transport Legislation Committee held public hearings into food labelling in February and yesterday released a report making four recommendations, including that the Australian food labelling bill not be passed.
“CHOICE supports all the recommendations, including that the Government consider developing a more effective country of original labelling framework and that the bill not be passed,” says CHOICE’s food policy advisor Angela McDougall.
“We also agree with the committee that a public education campaign about the new guidelines will be necessary so than when a shopper picks up a block of cheese or a pack of frozen vegetables, they know where it is from.”
At the February hearings, CHOICE called for a simplified food origin labelling framework after research showed that consumers were finding the current approach confusing, with poor understanding of terms like ‘Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients'.
CHOICE’s research also showed that consumers want to know not only where the ingredients in food products are from, but also where the product is manufactured. Labelling was found to be more important for fresh and less processed food but not as important for heavily processed foods like confectionery and soft drink.
“In light of the committee’s recommendations, CHOICE is calling on the Australian Government to lead discussions with state and territory consumer, food and health ministers to develop a more effective framework for country of origin labelling,” says Ms McDougall.
To help shoppers, the consumer group is calling for labelling to be simplified to three claims:
- ‘Product of Australia’ – a claim about where the ingredients are from and where they are processed
- ‘Manufactured in Australia’ - a claim about where the food was processed
- ‘Packaged in Australia’ - a basic claim to accommodate products which by law have to carry an origin declaration.