21 July 2015
Consumer advocacy group CHOICE has welcomed the release of the Federal Government's new country of origin food labelling scheme but says many consumers will still be left wondering where their food comes from.
"The Federal Government has taken a big step towards ending the confusion around country of origin labelling, especially for consumers who want to know how much of a product was manufactured or grown locally," says CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey.
"We welcome the Government's commitment to giving shoppers better information about the Australian-ness of their food, and informing this with consumer testing.
"Unfortunately, the new system looks less useful for consumers wanting information about any of the 195 countries that are not Australia. For example, claims such as 'Made in Australia from more than 50% Australian ingredients' will have you asking if your frozen berries come from China, Canada or Chile," says Mr Godfrey.
The new scheme launched today features nine mandatory label options covering 'Made in', 'Grown in' and 'Packed in' country of origin claims. The 'made in' claims feature a gold kangaroo in a green triangle supported by a ruler indicating the percentage of Australian-ness.
The Federal Government is also encouraging food manufacturers to provide more information on the origin of significant ingredients.
"Consumers wanting to buy Australian produce will need to look for the 'Grown in Australia' logo or the 'Made in Australia from 100% Australian ingredients' logo. This is an improvement on the current situation, where so-called qualified claims like 'Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients' leave shoppers confused.
"Unfortunately the new system leaves it up to the manufacturers to voluntarily declare the origin of a product's main ingredient.
"CHOICE is deeply concerned that global trade agreements might have provided an excuse to deny consumers the full picture of where their food comes from, especially at a time when agreements like the TPP are being finalised in secret.
"We urge food manufacturers to be more transparent about the origin of their ingredients and take on board the option to list the main ingredients of their products."
The Federal Government's announcement comes in the wake of more than 26,000 consumers signing a CHOICE petition to Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce to fix country of origin labelling in Australia.
It also follows CHOICE's 2012 country of origin labelling survey, which found that the confusing terminology used is a major source of frustration with 86% of consumers saying it is unclear.
 CHOICE's country of origin petition: http://choice.good.do/CoOL/write-to-barnaby-joyce/
 A CHOICE survey of 700 members found only 12 per cent were able to accurately identify the meaning of 'Made in Australia'.