CHOICE has found it's impossible to determine the country of origin of nearly half the frozen fruit and vegetables available in Australian supermarkets.

In the wake of numerous hepatitis A cases linked to imported frozen berries, CHOICE took to the supermarket freezers to investigate the country of origin of frozen fruit and veggies in Australia.

After checking the labels of 55 products, we've concluded that consumers who want transparency and control over the food they're eating will have a lot of trouble knowing where their food comes from. And this is why CHOICE continues to campaign on better country of origin labelling in Australia.

Weak labelling

There are several country of origin labelling (CoOL) statements that are currently approved for use in Australia. Most of them don't adequately explain the origin of the food we eat.

Country of origin labelling

Approved statement Definition What it doesn't tell us
'Product of [country name]' Each significant ingredient or part of the product originated in the country claimed and almost all of the production processes occurred in that country. This is arguably the most helpful of the current approved statements, but it doesn't guarantee that 100% of that product came from or was processed in that country.
'Made in [country]' The product was made (not just packed) in the country claimed and at least 50% of the cost to produce the product was incurred in that country. Where the ingredients were grown or sourced.
'from local and imported ingredients' The ingredients come from at least one other country in addition to the one claimed. What other countries ingredients may have come from or in what proportion.

Made in Australia?

Think you're buying local? A 'Made in Australia' label won't necessarily contain Australian ingredients at all.

It's no wonder that a CHOICE survey of 700 members found only 12% were able to accurately identify the meaning of Made in Australia.

CHOICE checks the labels

We checked the CoOL on a range of frozen mixed fruits and mixed vegetables products.

  • 30 products were labelled with 'Product of [country name]'.
  • 25 products used variations of the much less transparent statements.
  STATEMENT
FROZEN MIXED FRUIT
Coles Mixed Berries Product of Chile (All fruit from Chile/processed/packed in Chile)*
Creative Gourmet Mixed Berries (Raspberries, Blueberries, Blackberries, Black Currants, Red Currants) Packed in Australia using imported fruit
McCain Season's Choice Three Berry Mix (Blackberries, Blueberries & Raspberries) Product of Chile
Nanna's Mixed Berry (Strawberries, Blackberries, Raspberries, Blueberries) Product of China
Oob Organic Mixed Berries (Blueberries, Raspberries, Strawberries) Packed in New Zealand. Please see 'Best Before' for origin.**
Woolworths Select Mixed Berries (Strawberries, Raspberries,Blackberries, Blueberries) Product of Chile
Woolworths Select Tropical Fruits (Pineapple, Mango, Strawberry, Honeydew melon) Packed in Chile from imported and local ingredients
FROZEN MIXED VEGETABLES
  STATEMENT
Birds Eye Country Harvest Australian Baby Beans, Carrot, Corn & Broccoli Product of Australia
Birds Eye Country Harvest Australian Carrot, Cauliflower & Broccoli Product of Australia
Birds Eye Country Harvest Australian Carrot, Cauliflower & Peas Product of Australia
Birds Eye Country Harvest Australian Carrot, Cauliflower, Beans & Broccoli Product of Australia
Birds Eye Country Harvest Australian Carrots, Peas & Corn Product of Australia
Birds Eye Country Harvest Australian Corn, Peas, Carrot & Broccoli Product of Australia
Birds Eye Country Harvest Australian Garden Mix (Carrot, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Green Beans, Red Capsicum) Product of Australia
Birds Eye Country Harvest Australian Peas & Supersweet Corn Product of Australia*
Birds Eye Country Harvest Australian Peas, Corn & Capsicum Product of Australia
Birds Eye Country Harvest Australian Spring Greens Mix (Beans, Peas, Broccoli, Sugar Snap Peas) Product of Australia
Birds Eye Steam Fresh Carrot, Broccoli & Corn Mix Made in Australia
Birds Eye Steam Fresh Carrot, Cauliflower & Broccoli Mix Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients
Birds Eye Steam Fresh Carrot, Peas & Corn Mix Made in Australia
Birds Eye Steam Fresh Peas, Beans, Corn & Broccoli Mix Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients
Birds Eye Stir Fry Cantonese (Carrot, Broccoli, Bamboo Shoots, Sugar Snap Peas, Mushrooms) Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients*
Birds Eye Stir Fry Malaysian (Broccoli, Yellow Beans, Water Chestnuts, Sugar Snap Peas, Capsicum) Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients*
Birds Eye Stir Fry Oriental (Broccoli, Yellow Beans, Carrot, Sugar Snap Peas, Water Chestnuts, Red Capsicum) Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients*
Birds Eye Stir Fry Shanghai (Carrot, Broccoli, Sugar Snap Peas, Capsicum, Water Chestnuts) Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients*
Birds Eye Stir Fry Thai Style (Carrot, Green Beans, Broccoli, Baby Corn, Bamboo Shoots) Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients*
Coles Australian Carrots, Peas & Corn Product of Australia*
Coles Australian Cauliflower & Broccoli Product of Australia*
Coles Australian Mixed Vegetables Product of Australia*
Coles Australian Peas & Corn Product of Australia*
Heinz Golden Mix with Super Sweet Corn, Peas, Celery, Onion & Capsicum Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients
Heinz Mixed Veg with Carrots, Peas, Green Beans & Corn Kernels Product of New Zealand
Heinz Peas & Super Sweet Corn Product of New Zealand
Heinz Peas, Corn & Capsicum Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients
Heinz Steam Fresh Beans, Broccoli & Sugar Snap Peas Made in New Zealand from imported and local ingredients
Heinz Steam Fresh Beans, Carrots & Broccoli Made in New Zealand*
Heinz Steam Fresh Broccoli, Carrots & Cauliflower Made in New Zealand from imported and local ingredients
Heinz Steam Fresh Broccoli, Carrots & Sugar Snap Peas Made in New Zealand from imported and local ingredients
Heinz Steam Fresh Carrots, Corn & Broccoli Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients
Macro Organic Mixed Vegetables (Carrots, Beans, Broccoli, Cauliflower) Processed in Belgium
McCain Baby Beans, Baby Carrots & Peas Packed in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients*
McCain Carrots, Cauliflower, Broccoli & Beans Product of China*
McCain Carrots, Cauliflower, Broccoli & Sugar Snap Peas Product of China*
McCain Garden Greens (Peas, Beans, Broccoli, Sugar Snap Peas) Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients*
McCain Mixed Vegetables (Peas, Corn and Carrots) Product of New Zealand*
McCain Peas & Super Juicy Corn Product of New Zealand*
McCain Stir Fry Supreme (Carrot, Broccoli Core, Potato, Peas) Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients*
McCain Super Juicy Corn, Peas & Baby Beans Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients*
McCain Winter Vegetables Made in New Zealand from local and imported ingredients*
Woolworths Homebrand Frozen Mixed Vegetables (Carrots, Potato, Cauliflower, Broccoli, Peas,Corn Kernel) Product of China
Woolworths Select Australian Grown Carrots, Peas & Corn Product of Australia
Woolworths Select Australian Grown Cauliflower & Broccoli Florets Product of Australia
Woolworths Select Australian Grown Mixed Vegetables Product of Australia
Woolworths Select Australian Grown Peas & Corn Product of Australia
Woolworths Select Australian Grown Winter Vegetable Mix Product of Australia

*Country of origin information sourced from shop.coles.com.au
** The Country of Origin statement that appears alongside the Best Before date was indecipherable on every pack we checked in more than one supermarket, however a Facebook commenter alerted us to the statements on their pack which read: Country of Origin Strawberries: Mexico; Raspberries: Serbia; Blueberries: USA.

Join our campaign for better labelling

Australia has recently experienced a growth in food imports. The value of frozen vegetable imports in 2013–14 moved up 12% to $256 million, for example, and China – one of the countries associated with this latest food safety scare – remains our third largest source in this category.

Our research shows many consumers are passionate about knowing where their food is grown and where it is manufactured, but are confused about current labelling requirements. It's clear that now, more than ever, there's a need to improve CoOL and end this confusion.

"Australians should be able to make informed choices about the food they eat," said CHOICE spokesperson Tom Godfrey. "We are renewing our call for simplification of country of origin labelling. It's time to give consumers the information they want, remove the information they don't, and test the way we label our food to make sure it's meaningful."

"Consumer research must be undertaken before making any changes to the current labelling framework," Godfrey added.

Our Minister for Agriculture, Barnaby Joyce, has been vocal on the issue of country of origin food labelling. If you agree that it's time for positive change, join our campaign by writing to Minister Joyce here.