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Made in claims should be taken with a grain of salt

Country of origin labelling inquiry highlights issues within the current system but solution far from clear

27 October 2014

CHOICE welcomes the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry’s recommendation that food country of origin labelling needs to change but believes the Committee has missed an opportunity to simplify the system for consumers.

“The Committee has recognised that the current framework is confusing and needs to be simplified. That’s an important step, and one that we warmly welcome,” says CHOICE Director of Campaigns and Communications, Matt Levey.

“But the proposed solution risks being equally confusing, as it is based on percentages of the amount of local versus imported ingredients. It’s not clear that this will be a significant improvement for already confused shoppers.

“CHOICE is calling for a simplification of country-of-origin labelling, giving consumers the information they want, getting rid of the information they don’t, and testing the revised framework to make sure it’s meaningful.

“Our research shows many consumers are passionate about where their food is grown, and where it is manufactured, but are confused about current labelling requirements. We strongly urge the Federal Government to undertake direct consumer research before making any changes to the current labelling framework,” Mr Levey says.

The Committee’s proposal allows for three premium claims:
  • ‘Grown in’ – 100 per cent content from the country specified;
  • ‘Product of’ – 90 per cent content from the country specified;
  • ‘Made in [country] from [country] ingredients’ – 90 per cent content from the country specified.

For products which can’t make these premium claims, the Committee recommends two qualified claims:
  • ‘Made in [country] from mostly local ingredients’ – more than 50 per cent Australian content;
  • ‘Made in [country] from mostly imported ingredients’ – less than 50 per cent Australian content.
“Most consumers won’t know that ’made in Australia from mostly local ingredients‘ is any different from ’Made in Australia from Australian ingredients‘,” Mr Levey says.

“One solution would have been to qualify the country of the characterising ingredient or ingredients. For example, a frozen vegetable mix made in Australia with some imported vegetables and Australian carrots and peas could state that it is ‘Made in Australian with Australian carrots and peas’,” Mr Levey says.

A CHOICE survey[1] of 700 members found only 12% were able to accurately identify the meaning of “Made in Australia”.

CHOICE wants a clearer and more simplified labelling system. We welcome that the Committee has acknowledged the current system as confusing but call for a solution based on consumer expectations.

CHOICE called for:

  1. ‘Product of Australia’ or “Australian produce” = significant ingredients and virtually all processing to be from the country claimed
  2. ‘Manufactured in Australia’ = Relating solely to manufacturing
  3. ‘Packaged in Australia’ = Relates solely to manufacturing
  4. Consumer testing of any changes to ensure they are meaningful[2]

[1] http:/www.choice.com.au/food-and-drink/ethical-eating/labelling/articles/country-of-origin-labelling

[2] Submission to House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry Inquiry into country of origin food labelling 2014


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